Monthly Archives: August 2012

A True Palestinian Patriot

Quartet lost a good friend this week, who has died after a long illness. He was also a distinguished journalist, a brilliant writer and had that rare quality: the courage of his convictions. We were very fortunate to be able to add his name to our list of authors, in 1993, when we published The Forgotten Faithful.

Said K Aburish was born in the biblical village of Bethany, near Jerusalem in Palestine, in 1935. One of his grandfathers was a judge of the Islamic Court and a lecturer at the Arab College. The other was Village Headman. His father was correspondent for the London Daily Mail, the New York Times, Newsweek and TIME.

Said attended schools in Jerusalem and Beirut, and then at universities in the United States. He returned to Beirut in the late 1950s as a reporter for Radio Free Europe and the London Daily Mail.

After a varied career, which included positions as a consultant to two Arab governments, he returned to full-time writing in 1982. At this time, he took up residency in London and contributed articles to the Washington Post, the Independent and Libération, among others.

The Forgotten Faithful is about the Christians in The Holy Land, particularly those in Jerusalem and its surroundings who were cruelly treated by both the Israeli government and Muslim fundamentalists. The book was very well received and drew worldwide attention to this outrage.

In the early sixties, when my budding banking career took me to Intra Bank, which had its head office in Beirut, I became acquainted with Said’s father, who for almost forty years had held court at the bar of Hotel Saint Georges in his capacity as correspondent par excellence of so many international newspapers. When he was not at the hotel’s bar he held majlis at his office, attended by many of his admirers. We clicked on the spot and became great friends – just a few years before I met Said, who was truly his father’s son.

Said inherited his charisma as well as his charm, but above all his father’s great journalistic flair. Said wrote many books, some of which were hard hitting and controversial but always worthy of note. He will be remembered for his patriotic zeal as a Palestinian who loved his land and his people and never denied his origins. He died were he was born and he would not have wished to be buried anywhere else.

He will be sorely missed.

The Dream is Over

The Dream is OverAuthor Dan Richter took a year’s leave of absence as lead performer at the American Mime Theatre and teacher at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts to study mimetic forms around the world, and was swept up in the exploding counter-culture of the fabled 1960s.

London provides the backdrop for his amazing memoir, The Dream is Over. Dan starred in and choreographed the opening of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. With his friends Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and William S. Burroughs, he helped produce and read his poetry at the now legendary Albert Hall poetry ‘happening’.

A close friend of Yoko Ono’s, the main focus of the memoir is the four years Dan lived and worked with John Lennon and Yoko from 1969 to 1973. The Beatles, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan, and many other figures from the rock ‘n’ roll and art worlds fill its pages.  The Dream is Over reveals an intimate insider’s look, chronicling everything from battles with heroin addiction, John and Yoko’s concerts, their political activities, films, the break-up of the Beatles, to the making of the album Imagine.

This revealing book is a stark reminder of what happened in the sixties and the characters that inhabited this strange world, where art and music intertwined amid a haze of drug addiction that swept throughout the entertainment community, leaving in its wake a bleeding talent that to some is difficult to surpass.

Read his chronicle, which sheds a new light on John and Yoko’s relationship never seen before.

Order your copy now. You will not be disappointed.

The Way We Were

The coalition government is proving a big disaster.

They seem to be adopting policies that will eventually drag this country into the worst recession we have ever known. The Chancellor is full of his own worth and is extremely arrogant. The sooner he goes the better we are likely to fare.

The trend is to bash the middle classes in order to placate the Liberal Democrats in the government.

To hear Nick Clegg making statements to soak the mega-rich, who are immune to anything he can do, is truly laughable. The bulk of revenue this government is levying is not from the rich but those who work hard for their living and are now struggling to make both ends meet. It’s a shambolic state of affairs run by people who pretend to know better and are in fact behaving in an appallingly amateurish fashion.

Gone are the days when politicians were revered for their dignity, commitment and acumen, and were truly working for the benefit of the nation as a whole.

This new lot are devoid of such august qualities that can propel them to higher spheres of accomplishment.

Katherine Jenkins’ Faux Pas

Celebrities can sometimes be intolerably stupid.

Take for instance the case of Katherine Jenkins, who suddenly announced on twitter that she is not having an affair with David Beckham.

The purpose of her statement, she claims, is to squash malicious rumours on the internet that her lawyers consider could be actionable.

What a preposterous load of twaddle.

I can only conclude that she is either suffering from withdrawal symptoms because of a failed relationship and is now craving publicity, or she has temporarily lost her marbles.

Does she really believe that the public cares one hoot who she is not sleeping with?

By such a denial she has exposed herself to ridicule and given David Beckham a crossword puzzle to tinker with.

Grow up, Katherine, and concentrate on your singing which you excel at – and leave sexual innuendos alone.

Justice Must Be Seen to Be Done

A lot has been written about Julian Assange, who has sought refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

I don’t want to add to what has already been said about the case, except to mention that the information the general public has had so far is rather patchy, some dubious, and on the face of it his women accusers in Sweden have not to my mind disclosed conclusive evidence of rape. (That is for the courts to decide.)

But what puzzles me most is the determination of the British government to risk a major diplomatic row by suggesting an option to invade the embassy and snatch him from there.

This will certainly create an ugly incident, be condemned by the rest of the world – with the exclusion of the US administration, likely to applaud the move.

Have we by any chance lost respect for international law by making such threats, or is the Coalition swift to lose its composure in order to pacify Sweden, which has perhaps another agenda in mind?

I can fully understand the fears of Assange that he might be extradited from Sweden to the United States to face a rather grim and uncertain future.

A solution must be reached out of the present impasse, by ditching the cowboy tactics adopted by the government as opposed to a sensible diplomatic compromise.

If Assange is eventually found guilty of rape under Swedish law, then he has to suffer the consequences; however, with the proviso that the case should rest there and not be linked to anything else.

The man should not be hounded for daring to expose the unthinkable hypocrisy of government that has two diametrically opposed faces, where the face the public sees is not the real one.

It is therefore of paramount importance to ensure that freedom of information must never be curtailed under some guise or another. If this were to happen our democracies will be the poorer for it.

A Naked Romp

Naughty Prince Harry is in the news again.

The narrow-minded band of killjoys in this world are making a meal of it. I’ve written often on my blog that he’s a man after my own heart and followed it recently by describing him affectionately as ‘bonking Harry’. I am pleased he did not let me down by proving me wrong, and maintains his aura and reputation intact.

He should ignore those who are scandalised by his behaviour and tell them to go and fly a kite instead. Leave his private life alone! After all, why should he not cavort with attractive young ladies and make the very most of it?  Who can blame him if his willy is more active than most? He is certainly very personable, full of verve and, from the looks of it, has lots to offer to enterprising gals who must find him a joy to be with and a good bed companion.

We need the likes of Prince Harry to brighten our humdrum existence and make us regret not having as much fun as him, so that we may cherish these memories in our decrepit old age.

Go for it Harry, and please don’t let them mould you into a boring old fart before your time beckons.

The So-called Arab Spring

What’s happening in the Arab world today gives one cause for concern.

Are we seeing a resurgence of Islamist groups determined to put the clock back and do away with the little reforms that one was hoping for as a result of what we now call the ‘Arab Spring’?

The omens are not good.

Although Egypt, the largest and most powerful Arab country in the region, has so far succeeded in democratically electing a civil administration, the signs are that the Islamist movement is now overwhelmingly in control and will, in no time, turn the country into a strict Muslim entity and all that that would entail.

If this were to occur, the much-hated dictatorship of the last three decades will surface again under a more sinister face.

The Christian minorities are bound to suffer in the process, feeling that their voice matters very little in the affairs of state.

Nowhere in the Arab world are we seeing reforms which will give comfort to the Christian minorities and ensure their future. The turbulence throughout the region is threatening the entire structure of every Arab nation; particularly the Lebanon because of the Syrian carnage, the reverberations of which will eventually affect the stability of all its neighbours.

The world at large must exert every conceivable effort to use its influence in defusing the dangers of anarchy. Religious extremists must be stopped at all costs from causing havoc and running amok with any nation’s destiny.

We should learn from the past. Zealots only do irreparable harm when they use religion in its most virulent context. The crusaders of the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries – as well as the Muslims – turned barbarians in their long-drawn battles that took place in the Holy Land during the terrible wars of attrition.

We must never allow history to repeat itself.

The Dashing Prince

It was significant perhaps that Prince Harry was given centre stage, rather than his aunt – the redoubtable Princess Royal – at the recent Olympic closing ceremony.

Of all the young royals, Princess Diana’s youngest is by far the most charismatic. He has an impish disposition and is always game for a laugh.

Known among his close circle of friends as a ‘bonking lad’, he has the charm to get away with it. In fact, what attractive lass could ever refuse such a dashing prince!

On a more serious level he shows as great a compassion as did his mother towards those in want and by reason of his enterprising and fearless character he complements the perception of an evolving monarchy, which of late has become more popular than I can remember.

William, our future King, is rather staid and lacks the ebullience of his younger brother. Both boys are however very close and should make a formidable team when their time beckons.

I wish them well.

Free Speech is a Fundamental Tenet of Democracy

A light-hearted piece I wrote on Facebook last Friday, celebrating the remarkable achievements of the women from Team GB who are exceptionally feminine and known to be heterosexual, unleashed a torrent of abuse against me and what I wrote – the likes of which I have seldom encountered.

Nowhere in my piece had I suggested or implied that lesbians were not necessarily feminine or incapable of winning trophies, but the gist of it was that being heterosexual and oozing femininity gives you the same level of excellence in sport as those who adopt a more masculine role.

A debate is always the measure with which we associate democracy and free speech. Ignoring the absurdity of political correctness is a fundamental tenet of it. But guttural abuse should never be part of the equation. A healthy exchange of ideas and beliefs is the cornerstone of a civilised society and it would be catastrophic if we failed to uphold it.

Hence my utter shock and dismay when, as a result of my well-meaning, light piece, expletives such as ‘knob’, ‘dickhead’, ‘arse’, and other such words were used to describe my status, under the guise that those who use such vitriolic language are merely defending feminism. Among them even were a bunch of men who joined in the chorus, as if trying to shield their sisters from a rampant misogynist as well as a bigot, and using antideluvian terms which are rather alien to me.

It is sheer hypocrisy by those who often shout the loudest in order to hijack the feminist cause at this late hour while, quite frankly, they have nothing tangible to show for it. Were they perhaps hibernating when women suffered discrimination for decades past, and what have they done to combat this injustice?

Women today have made tremendous leaps within the very fabric of our society. Not only do they compete with the once traditional male role but have more often than not beaten him at his own game. It is a sheer joy to see women climb the ultimate ladder of success and do it with such immaculate style.

As my own credentials prove my commitment and admiration of women, I therefore totally disregard this abuse for the abusers are often lacking in self-respect and are not, in my estimation, worthy of note.

In 1977, I co-founded The Women’s Press, with Stephanie Dowrick, a feminist imprint that became a byword for women’s emancipation. We both fought interminable battles to encourage, promote and publish works by women when the cause of feminism required their voices to be heard loud and clear. I spent millions of pounds over the years to bolster these beliefs.

To be called a knob and a dickhead is, to say the least, a travesty of what the imprint achieved. I can take solace in having been the co-creator of the imprint and I am proud to have contributed to the evolution of women in the best way that my resources permitted. The satisfaction of having been involved is enough reward in itself.

Before they throw down the gauntlet, these irresponsible protestors who accuse me of being disparaging to women are well advised to do their homework properly.

Putting The Women’s Press aside, Quartet Books was an imprint that I acquired in the summer of 1976 and expanded it to become a formidable force in the publishing world. Not, I might say, because of its size but mainly because of its pioneering spirit in publishing books that the Establishment never dared to do.  Its original founders’ policy was to highlight injustice. Quartet thus became the champions of displaced minorities and the underdog in our society wherever she happened to be.

Its biggest gamble however was to liberalise sex by defying the Establishment and publishing The Joy of Sex. The battles that ensued with the authorities are well documented and legendary, as are the controversies which grew around a series of books defending the rights of homosexuals and lesbians.

In 1981, I wrote and published Women, under the Quartet banner, in which I interviewed two hundred and eighty-nine successful women from all walks of life about issues facing them. The Times serialised the book for an entire week, advertising it on television and promoting it extensively. I was subsequently invited to produce a French version by interviewing an additional thirty French women, to be followed by an edition in Japanese.

Quartet’s list of books through the years are so varied and certainly bereft of any sexual prejudice to make the claim of this lynch mob utterly laughable.

As for lesbians, I believe some of them are deliciously feminine as well as being attractive to both sexes. A recent book we published, Chelsea Wives and their Mistresses by Sarah Bramley, is a case in point.

My plea to those who, since last Friday, have sent a bonanza of abuse is they should pause and reflect before making wild statements which have no foundation whatsoever. A sense of humour is obviously badly needed to diffuse this nonsensical rhetoric that has by now run its course.

Having concluded this piece with an olive branch offered to my detractors, I am nevertheless adamant in resisting these misguided minorities in our society, whose sole desire is to stifle our sacrosanct right to free speech and render us some sort of morons, to manipulate to order.

Femininity in the World of Sport

I cannot understand the aggressive and uncalled for reaction of some women who called me names for suggesting on facebook that women from Team GB, who have done so well, are also heterosexual – which goes to prove that femininity can triumph, even in the competitive world of sport.

However, I never implied that lesbianism is bereft of femininity but in general it does adopt a more masculine role.