Geoffrey Alderman, with whom I once appeared on Iranian state television, has referred more than once in his writings to the fact that he was circumcised by the doctor who later performed the same operation on Prince Charles. As Herbert Farjeon so nearly put it, this means that I have been on Iranian state television with a man, who was circumcised by a man, who circumcised the Prince of Wales...Anyway, Professor Alderman's latest column is about West Dunbartonshire Council's absurd ban on books produced in Israel. It is, of course, only Israeli books that are being banned. China's occupation of Tibet has not prompted a similar ban on Chinese books. The flow of books from Burma need not, apparently, be interrupted in response to anything that happens over there. Nor, for that matter, are the finest minds in Scottish local government moved to ban books produced in the territory ruled by Hamas, which continues to oppress the Palestinian people of Gaza.
Clearly, the council's boycott of Israel is motivated by its concern for human suffering, including in Gaza. And what suffering this is. We are talking, after all, about a place with a relatively low life expectancy, "with high levels of deprivation, low levels of economic activity and a small business base." The population is declining and ageing, with many people being required to subsist on a variety of benefits. Perhaps unsurprisingly, income from tourism is declining, while rates of coronary heart disease, stroke and cancer are all higher than the average. Many children live in a household in which no-one works. It is heart-rending to read of such suffering. Never mind Gaza, I'm talking about life in West Dunbartonshire, from whose corporate plan I have taken all of these grim facts. Perhaps we should send a flotilla?
Clearly, messing around in foreign policy is the best way for councillors to solve the considerable problems faced by the people of West Dunbartonshire. Perish the thought that residents might prefer the council to sort out a few local problems before it brings peace to the Middle East. I wonder how much it cost to hold the meeting at which councillors spent time passing this absurd boycott motion?