Now for something completely different.
Many moons ago, in 1991 to be exact, I was commissioned to write a book on the Jews of Spain for the publishers
Aris & Phillips
That particular book never got written in the end. However, when I learned from
that her sister-in-law
Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma
had just won the
Nobel Peace Prize
and that they couldn't get involved as the dreadful Burmese regime were already accusing Suu of colonialism for being married to Michael, Lucinda's brother (a therefore a Brit), I embarked on a plan of action.
This involved getting Liverpool churches, as well as local radio involved, as well as using the good offices of the Centre for Continuing Education at Liverpool University, where I taught Hebrew. Despite misgivings about Chinese retaliation, the Centre was helpful, and so were the Liverpool University PR people.
Then, out of the blue, I received an invitation from the Nobel Committee to attend the Nobel Peace Prize itself and the local Liverpool Allerton newspaper wrote a nice article about this.
The Bishop of Liverpool invited me round before I left for Norway and asked for a report when I returned. And then, on December 5th, my husband's 40th birthday, we flew out, leaving his mother in charge of the kids.
This was possibly the only time in my life that I've been treated as a VIP - little did I know that the Oslo peace talks were taking place clandestinely, and being Jewish was a positive plus for once. The Nobel Committee were absolutely fabulous. They also invited me to attend the parallel conference for Past Peace Laureates and Distinguished Guests. I met
Desmond Tutu (very unimpressive: no wonder - he had just founded Sabeel and obviously had a problem with Jews),
Eli Wiesel (tired out and beseiged by journalists),
Red Cross representatives (cold and distant) and the
Dalai Lama (a radiant presence).
The Dalai Lama understood at once. After warmly embracing me, he said that as I Jew, I could be of great help in publicising the plight of the Tibetans and the Burmese and urged me to carry on with the work when I returned to Britain.
The rest of the week was also a dream. I had not brought any fancy clothes, but even though there was an Ibsen Gala attended by the King and Queen, I was allowed in in my rags and totally inappropriate snow boots and was sat next to dear Lucinda, sister of Michael Aris.
Anyway, on return to Liverpool, I founded the
Liverpool Burma Support Group and was phoned up by various people in the House of Lords who wished to be patron, as well as the local MP, David Alton. The then Mayor of Liverpool was also extremely helpful, and I persuaded Liverpool University's Student Union to name a room after Aung San Suu Kyi. Ironically it was the bar, which would have tickled the fancy of teetotal Suu.
However, we gradually found that there were differences between Burmese factions resident in Britain and that they found it difficult to work together. In addition, they felt that some of the non-Burmese NGOS and pressure groups were using the situation for their own ends. Some of the behaviour I encountered reminded me of the Jewish community as well. And I wonder if this inability to work as a team in a professional manner is actually a characteristic of most immigrant groups. This can't be quite true, as the Muslim community in Britain manages to conceal their differences and come out fighting in support of their own -often pernicious - philosophy when it suits them.
But when I was invited to attend a Burma conference in Berlin, sponsored by the German government, and found officials there comparing the monstrous regime in Burma to Israel and blaming the Jews and Winston Churchill for the Holocaust, I knew something was wrong. Subsequently, we moved to Manchester and I heard very little from anyone about Burma after that.
However, recently here in Haifa I have received a copy of
Burma Campaign News
and in response to my e-mail, Anna Roberts of the Burma Campaign sent this reply:
It would be great if you could highlight the campaign on your blog.
An event to consider might be a reading or performance of ‘The Lady of Burma’ – a new one woman play about the life of Aung San Suu Kyi:
We organised readings of the play around the world for Suu’s birthday this year -
<https://www.burmacampaign.org.uk/pm/weblog.php?id=P257> - and would like to have even more performances for next year’s birthday - we will try for a Guinness World Record! Next year will be a big year as it’s the 20th anniversary of the 1988 uprising. If you’d like any more information, just let me know.
With best wishes and thank you for your support.
These are the details of the Burma Campaign, and I'm sure they would be delighted to receive any support.
Meantime, Burmese Buddhist monks have been taking the very brave step of marching in protest at the regime's continued outrages. Here is the BBC on it:
And here is The Times:
I shall be sending this blog to the German Embassy here in Israel and do hope they have now revised their view of Israel and their own culpable responsiblity for both World War II and the Holocaust.