Last February Morpurgo was given the honour of reciting the Richard Dimbleby lecture, which has been delivered by an influential figure every year since 1972, and he chose to speak on the lack of childrens’ rights around the world. He pointed out that 8 million children a year die before the age of 5. As he said, “that’s a holocaust of children every year”. He also mentioned that “69 million children never go to school” and that “3.5 million children in our own country are still mired in poverty”.
Most of those 8 million children die from AIDS, war, malaria, malnutrition and other diseases in Africa. But Morpurgo failed to say anything about that instead choosing to spend a large portion of this high profile speech on the darlings of the left, the Palestinians, and invoking the modern day version of the anti-Semitic blood libel. He relied on statements of those with an anti-Israel agenda.
He said he went to Jordan 10 years ago and met Jordanian children “about eighty per cent of whom are Palestinian refugees”. They are not refugees by any normal definition, but are simply born and bred Jordanians.
He mentioned a teenage girl who said:
“I want to tell you something real and true. My family lives here in Jordan, but I do not belong here. I belong in Palestine. It is my home but I can’t live there because it is occupied.”
Obviously, her “Palestine” means Israel and this was a call for the destruction of the Jewish state with its hidden aspiration for all Palestinians to head for Israel and turn it into another Arab state.
Morpurgo soon mentioned Gaza and repeated Israel-hating Amnesty International’s figure that 300 children were killed during Operation Cast Lead. But Amnesty and the United Nations class a child as being “under 18″. So a 17 year old Hamas fighter pointing a gun at an Israeli soldier being shot dead in self-defence is classed as “a child”.
Morpurgo also gave the impression that from the moment he entered Gaza to the moment he exited it two days later that the Israelis were hell-bent on killing Palestinian children.
No sooner did he enter Gaza when:
“Halfway down I heard the sound of a shot being fired – it sounded to a country boy like me as if someone was shooting rabbits. All around young Palestinian boys were racing around on their donkeys and carts whooping and shrieking. I had no idea what they were doing at the time. I was in another world. I didn’t know who was doing the shooting. In this other world I went the next day to visit a hospital for malnourished babies and then on to a project for blind children.”
On his way out of Gaza he described how “earlier that morning, before I got there it seems, some of the scavengers had ventured too close to the wall and had been fired at and wounded”, and while he was waiting to leave:
“It was then I heard shots, then screaming, saw the kids running to help their wounded friends. Now I really was outside the comfort zone of fiction. A doctor from Medicins sans Frontieres, waiting there with me, told me that the shots were probably not fired by marksmen from the watchtowers on the wall, but that these scavengers were sometimes targeted, remotely, electronically from Tel Aviv, which was miles away – ‘Spot and Strike,’ they call it. Like a video game – a virtual shooting. I don’t know if these claims are true but I do know the shots were real, there was blood, the boy’s trousers were soaked in it, the bullets were real. I saw him close to, saw his agony as the cart rushed by me.”
So there you have it, the modern day reincarnation of the anti-Semitic blood libel. In the old days this involved the accusation that Jews abducted and slaughtered non-Jewish children and used their blood in religious rituals. Nowadays it is Israelis, or Jewish Israelis to be more precise, who, allegedly, just kill them “like a video game”.
Morpurgo admitted that he didn’t know if the claims by a doctor from Medicins sans Frontieres that the shots came remotely from Tel Aviv were true, but he made them anyway. For Morpurgo it doesn’t matter because it sounds like a wonderfully sad story, which he is in the business of telling.
Morpurgo did make a weak attempt at partiality with the following:
“I know Hamas rockets had been landing in Israel for a very long time and that Israeli children have been dying there too. And I know it is absolutely the right of every nation to defend itself.So most certainly the Israelis have had their reasons. But I’m sure that most of them believe as we all do that a child’s life in particular is precious, any child’s life. Yet Palestinian children died. Collateral damage, some might call it.”
He mentioned his visit to a village where “Arab and Jewish children play together and learn together”, but this mention of “Jewish children” should raise alarm bells. Why were the Israeli children described by him in terms of their religion and not their nationality, unlike the Arab children?
But if Morpurgo was really concerned about the rights of Palestinian children he would have highlighted the child abuse prevalent in Palestinian society where children are used as human shields by Hamas, where Hamas destroys childrens’ summer camps in Gaza and where television programmes are regularly aired by the Palestinian Authority on which children claim a desire to grow up to become martyrs.
Instead he chose to believe the propaganda of those who have their own financial interests in spreading lies about Israel and his words should have been prefaced with the following announcement:
“No facts were checked in the making of this speech”.
What a waste of an important speech last February. Instead of bravely speaking up for Palestinian children like he could have, Michael Morpurgo probably only succeeded in adding a little more hatred of Jews into the world.