May 07, 2006

Linda Grant's new fiction - Who cares wins

I've just been having the most ridiculous discussion with Linda Grant on the Engage site comments and frankly I am only posting this in a fit of pique because her debating style is so dishonest, emotive and hypocritical. The gist of her "argument" tonight was that I am uncaring about Jews in Palestine because I believe in democratic rights for all, liberty for all and for all to be protected by the rule of law.

Now I should say here that I don't like or respect Linda Grant. It goes back to reading her apologetics in the Guardian for some time. I remember that I told a friend of mine that I thought she was simply a zionist propagandist and he told me that he had read her book, When I lived in modern times, and that he thought she was simply mistaken as to the politics of the situation. I respected his opinion but again and again I noticed in her Guardian articles a clear bias in favour of zionism and some profoundly devious formulations. I often couldn't put my finger on them but one day she made reference to an incident that seemed to me to be implausible in the extreme. It's here:
at the stone-setting ceremony for my mother at a Bournemouth cemetery last year, the prayers were drowned out by a gang of teenage boys screaming "Die, fucking Jews, die".
Since there is no positive case for Israel zionists have an interest in exaggerating the incidence and indeed fabicrating incidents of antisemitism and I couldn't believe my luck when a mere four months later in a letter to the same Guardian, Linda Grant was protesting that:
I have not, as Rabbi Goldberg implies, ever commented, in print or otherwise about anti-Semitism in Britain.
This was back in 2002. I didn't start my blog until February or March 2004 but when the excuse arose I posted that Linda Grant had lied about the stone-setting incident. Well then I got an email from her and we had an exchange that had me thinking, wrongly, that she's not such a bad old stick after all. See this:
Dear Mr Elf

Unfortunately for me, I stumbled across your weblog. The distortions of my positions on various matters would be enough to fill a whole corrections and clarifications column in the Guardian, but are harmless enough as it is easy for anyone to check the originals which you helpfully link to.

However, I have read the following several times and can only assume that you are stating that I invented an anti-Semitic incident at my mother’s stone-setting in 2000.* This event was attended by around 30 people all of whom witnessed it. I believe the synagogue subsequently reported it to the police. Unless you have some convincing evidence to counter these eye witness accounts, I am going to have to ask you to remove this reference from your website. Perhaps it was merelkt badly worded and you merely meant that I had stated that I had not written about anti-Semitism in the UK and this small mention in an article about the Durban conference is in contradiction to that claim. You are welcome to make the point for what it’s worth, not very much in my view, but you cannot leave readers of your site with the impression that I invented an ugly and upsetting anti-Semitic incident. I think you will find that would come under the heading of libel. I have no wish to assault your right to free speech on the subject of Zionism, however that right does not extend to fabrication.

You do not, by the way, have my permission to reproduce this email on your website.*

Yours sincerely

Linda Grant
I checked with friends about this and all agreed that even though it was indeed implausible especially given her later denial of ever having said anything about antisemitism in Britain, then I had better remove the offending piece. Now see this:
Dear Ms Grant

Thank you very much for your email.

I actually checked with the police in Bournemouth when I read that stuff about the incident at your mother's stone-setting and they said that they could not find a record of it. That, of course didn't mean that it didn't happen. I just remember thinking how implausible it was at the time and phoning to check. Then, in response to an article by a rabbi, you wrote to The Guardian saying that you hadn't written or even said anything about anti-Semitism in the UK. This made the original piece all the more implausible. Not only could you not remember writing about it but you couldn't remember talking about it. These, I thought, were good enough reasons to assume that you were lying.

Anyway, I have now changed the word "falsified" to "written" and the word "lie" to "story", though frankly I'm not convinced and I certainly cannot be accused of "fabrication"; presumption perhaps but not fabrication.

I must say how honoured I feel that you stumbled on my blog. Kindly tell me what you were looking for when you found it. I'm guessing you were looking up "Linda Grant" but, as I know from this encounter, I shouldn't make assumptions.

Again thanks

Yours sincerely

Mark Elf
Now this is where it gets a bit weird. See her next letter and my response:
Dear Mr Elf

I have just checked your weblog and you have not made any alteration. Dealing with you on this matter rather reminds me of a similar incident regarding David Irving’s website: I have not been able to wrest any correction from him either. I’m afraid those who make a career of distorting verifiable facts end up in the libel courts.

As I have explained to you, there were around 30 witnesses to this event. The fact is that though you claim to be an anti-racist and opponent of the far-right, your comments may end up on a far-right website, and the desecration of my mother’s stone-setting by teenage thugs will become part of the very agenda you profess to fight. And all in the name of cheap, political point-scoring.

Yours sincerely

Linda Grant
Oo-er, perplexing stuff but trust me.
Don't be hasty now. I changed it. If it hasn't taken on all the archives that's just my inexperience. Calm down while I check.

Go there:

And if you compare liberal people like myself to holocaust deniers in order to denounce "cheap political point scoring" you'll only make yourself look ridiculous.


Mark Elf
Phew! get this:
Found it. I had a weekly archive and changed to monthly. When I edited, it only edited the monthly. I didn't know the weekly had stayed in tact. I have now had to reschedule the whole archive to weekly again so that the changes would take throughout the whole archive.

Now check this:

Now, I wrote to a friend of mine to tell him about this (your first email) and he reckoned that you're possibly particularly upset because this struck a nerve, not about your writing, but about your mother. For that, I truly apologise. [I'll return to this apology in a mo']

Mark Elf
Now this is where Linda Grant starts to make nice and I start to be more stupid and gullible than usual.
Dear Mark

Your friend is quite correct. My mother died after a lengthy and horrible illness. What you do not know, and what I have not written about because it is a private, family matter, is that the stone-setting incident exacerbated an existing situation.

[Linda Grant has correctly pointed out that a reference here to an innocent person she used to get me to delete the post the first time around wasn't fair and has threatened to have my blog pulled. So I've deleted that reference - everything else is a matter of public record - albeit only from Linda Grant]

We spoke to the shul the next day who said that they would deal with it. We didn’t follow up on it because that was not our priority.

In the light of this information might I suggest that you remove the reference altogether.

Yours sincerely

Linda Grant
Moving stuff huh? Linda Grant wrote about an incident that was very upsetting for somebody, in the Guardian where hundreds of thousands of people, including that somebody, could read it and here she was asking me to delete all reference to it on my then 20 or so hits a day blog. And what did muggins do? You guessed correctly. I deleted all reference to it.
Right I've completely overhauled the offending post.


Ever the self-justifier, back she comes:
By the way, this is a complete misreading of what I actually said: “Well in between the mealy mouthed hand-wringing we find that Linda has no solution for the problem in Palestine but she does identify the problem. It's the suicide bombings.”

The suicide bombings are not the cause of hamatzav, (the situation) they are the cause of the buah (the bubble of denial). And the buah have now become part of hamatzav.

But you’re right, I don’t have a solution,.
And my final response:
Sorry Linda - I don't do nuance - I do black and white (but you knew that already)

I have to go to work now.


She did reply to say that nuance is her speciality but I didn't keep a copy of that. I thought we got on quite well in the end but when I wrote to her to try to get her help in getting an article published she seemed a bit curt and when I asked her for a link to her claim that most religious attacks in America were on Jews she assumed I was calling her a liar again which I wasn't; I really wanted to know. I think that little bout resulted in her calling me a "conspiracy theorist" but I didn't keep the correspondence then.

Anyway the apology. You remember?
I wrote to a friend of mine to tell him about this (your first email) and he reckoned that you're possibly particularly upset because this struck a nerve, not about your writing, but about your mother. For that, I truly apologise.
Well here's what the lovely Linda did with the apology. This was much later on the Nick Cohen site. Nick Cohen has deleted all comments on his blog now and stops all commenting after a little mess he got himself into on this site so I posted what I could here. Here's the stuff re the apology. It starts with me in comment 74.
On my blog I simply seek to expose liars in the media. You know yourself that I am always willing to correct any mistake pointed out to me and to apologise for the same. That is not part of any problem from an honest humanist perspective. I can see how a zionist might see it as a problem.
Bad move. Mention your willingness to admit that you are were wrong and she goes into a feed frenzy. Get this:
Mark has a long history of ascribing ideas to me that I do not hold. But worse, my first interaction with him was when he stated that I had invented an anti-semitic incident involving teenage yobs at my mother’s stone-setting, which I alluded to briefly in a Guardian article. He was forced to withdraw this allegation, and apologise.
Huh? forced to apologise? I was just being nice by apologising for mentioning her mother. And remember the delete all reference to it for the sake of that person? What happened to that? It took four months for her to forget a shocking antisemitic incident that she had written about in the Guardian. At least it took her a little longer to forget her hurt over her mother and the feelings of that someone. I would have posted this immediately after her disgraceful display on the Nick Cohen site but it was all buried in a broken computer. By the time I got the data files from it things had moved on.

I've been waiting for an excuse to post that stuff because I think it shows that on a political and a personal level she has a distinct lack of integrity. She's perfect for Engage but why do we get her tosh in the Guardian so often?

* Re the permission to post this on my site, I didn't know the status of this demand but since she went public on it on Nick Cohen's site, to paraphrase Willie Whitelaw, all bets are off Linda.

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