Monday, 21 October 2013

Here's How to Egregiously Manipulate the Facts of a Case

I saw this poster in a subway station here in Vancouver, along with a few other pro-Israel posters.
Let's just say, I wasn't impressed. Or amused.

Let us be clear: I was not distressed by the fact that the poster was supporting Israel. I think that Israel is both a vibrant, democratic state and a canker that has eaten at the Middle East since its formation. I have no particular problem with media that support or media that criticize it. I was upset that the maps on the poster were selected to imply a blatantly false proposition.

The first map shows the United Kingdom of Israel, which lasted a hair over 100 years. It split into the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, the former of which was conquered by Assyria after about 200 years, and the latter of which was conquered by Babylon between 597 and 582 BC. The elite of the Kingdom of Judah were then taken into the Babylonian exile.

The second map shows the British Mandate of Palestine in 1920, the date in which the San Remo conference supported that a "national home for the Jewish people" be set up within Palestine on the understanding that "nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine." There was no intention to commit all of Palestine to become a Jewish State, which is why the word "state" was not used at all. In addition, the land could hardly be called "Jewish land" because Jews were, at that point, a tiny minority. As the League of Nations reported,
There are now in the whole of Palestine hardly 700,000 people, a population much less than that of the province of Gallilee alone in the time of Christ. Of these 235,000 live in the larger towns, 465,000 in the smaller towns and villages. Four-fifths of the whole population are Moslems. A small proportion of these are Bedouin Arabs; the remainder, although they speak Arabic and are termed Arabs, are largely of mixed race. Some 77,000 of the population are Christians, in large majority belonging to the Orthodox Church, and speaking Arabic. The minority are members of the Latin or of the Uniate Greek Catholic Church, or--a small number--are Protestants.

The Jewish element of the population numbers 76,000. Almost all have entered Palestine during the last 40 years.
The final, current map on the poster is meant to illustrate that the Republic of Israel, even with the West Bank added in, is much smaller than the Jewish Lands were in former days. It implies a gradual shrinking over 3000 years of occupancy.

How misleading this implication is can be shown by looking at a maps of "Jewish land" in 800 BC (rather than 1000 BC), 1919 (rather than 1920) and 1967 (rather than now).

The first map shows the Kingdom of Judah in about 800 B.C. Since the United Kingdom of Israel was ephemeral and the northern kingdom called Israel was incorporated into the Assyrian Empire in about 720 B.C., the Kingdom of Judah represented Jewish Lands from then until about 590 B.C.

In the middle map, there are no "Jewish lands" at all. The Balfour Declaration that Palestine should accommodate a large Jewish population had not been put into effect. Jews in Palestine in 1919 were neither legally nor demographically in possession of a homeland in Palestine.

The last map shows both the Republic of Israel and the lands it controlled in 1967: the West Bank, the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, and the Gaza Strip. It is significantly larger than the non-existent Jewish lands in 1919, isn't it?

These three maps support a different inference about the extent of Jewish lands than the maps on the poster. It shows an ancient state which disappeared from the map and a Jewish people who scattered in a diaspora, living without a homeland. It shows that a Jewish state was recently created and still exists. In fact, these maps support a truthful account, as the poster does not.

Whoever designed the poster and the "StandWithUs" group who paid for it should be ashamed of themselves.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Spoken Word Performances on (Shakespeare, Shaw, Tolkien)

I used to wander into the University of BC's record collection (pause for definition: records are 12-inch vinyl disks that each hold a sound recording of some kind). Sometimes I'd listen to something funny, such as The Goon Show; sometimes, something musical, such as sea chanteys by the X-Seamen's Institute; sometimes, something spoken, such as Bernard Shaw's play St. Joan.

The biggest name in spoken-word recordings, there and elsewhere, then and now, was Caedmon Records (now Caedmon Audio). Since 1952 it has been recruiting the top authors and actors to perform poems and plays. Check out the list of their first hundred records on this page to see what type of talent it attracted.

My unsolicited praise of Caedmon was occasioned by a visit I made to the Internet Archive site yesterday. On the off-chance that I'd find something interesting, I clicked "Audio" on the front page and then typed "Caedmon" in the Search Box. Much to my surprise, here is what I found: Caedmon recordings of several Shakepeare plays (Othello, Coriolanus, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Henry IV Part I, Henry IV Part II, Pericles Prince of Tyre, The Merry Wives of Windsor) and a Shakepeare poem, "Troilus and Cressida." Bernard Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra, Jack Prelutsky's Nightmares to 
Trouble Your Sleep, Kipling's Just So Stories, and J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit round out the collection.

Listening to the last item, I was very impressed with how the voice actor, Nicol Williamson, altered his voice and accent to the various characters. Bilbo Baggins, as a hobbit, got a "West Country" accent, as he should, but the dwarves were northerners by the sound of them, perhaps Yorkshiremen.

Here is a link to the page my search turned up. Give a listen to one of the recordings, or just marvel at the list of actors in them. For example, the recording of The Tempest has Michael Redgrave, Anna Massey, Vanessa Redgrave, Hugh Griffith, and John Hurt. Coriolanus stars Richard Burton.