i wonder whether this sad creature realised that a liberal conversion would not have entitled her to israeli citizenship

My guess would be that in five years’ time, when the reality of her rejection by Judaism finally sinks in, she will embrace Islam on the rebound; but not Shi’ite Islam, like Lauren Booth, more likely a Muslim Brotherhood-oriented Sunni Islam. The human heart, though sometimes enigmatic, is sometimes as easy to read as an open book – RB

Julie (hearts) Israel 4ever
Ruth Eglash, JPost, Oct 29 2010

Photo: Marc Israel Sellem

As British attitudes toward Israel continue to grow harsher, Julie Burchill claims to be a bigger Zionist than most Jews. Within minutes of meeting Burchill, she lives up to her reputation. Airily stubbing out her cigarette and ordering two vodkas on the rocks and two bottles of white wine, she says:

When is the photographer supposed to be coming? I hope he arrives before I get drunk. (Evidently, he didn’t – RB)

It’s a Thursday lunchtime, and we are sitting in east Jerusalem’s American Colony Hotel. When I remind Burchill that a photograph of her drunk will only enhance her trademark image, she quips:

I’m never offended on behalf of myself. But I’m offended on Israel’s behalf all the time. I just won’t stand for it.

A self-proclaimed “Zionist whore,” this is her fourth visit, and she will say nothing more about the place other than:

I love Israel, I love every part of Israel, I love everything in Israel, I love Jews, I don’t know why but I just do.

In fact, Burchill, 51, loves it here so much that this trip has inspired her to set about organizing a literature and comedy festival aimed at breaking the growing cultural boycott. Burchill, who has already named the festival Sababa Tel Aviv, exclaims:

I met with the British ambassador yesterday and asked him if this was a crazy idea and he said, ‘No, it’s just what Israel needs.’

Among the guests she plans to invite to the festival is British Jewish author Howard Jacobson. It is likely to kick off sometime next November, says Burchill excitedly, while she appears blasé about most subjects. The three-time married Burchill, who has shared almost all the intimate details of her sometimes sordid life with the British public in columns that have appeared in newspapers such as the Mail on Sunday, the Daily Mail, the Sun, the Times, the Guardian and, since this past summer, the Independent, admits:

My memory is shot.

This time she has been brought here to write stories for the Jewish Chronicle. When it comes to Israel she refuses to discuss anything negative about the country or its people. Burchill says that she has been in love with Israel since she was 12 years old, stating:

Israelis might be brash and less polite than people in Britain, but they have a right to be.

While later it emerges that her fascination with all things Israeli and Jewish started a little before 12, Burchill agrees that she likes to think that she had some kind of spiritual bat mitzva in her early teens and is happy when I suggest that perhaps she has a Jewish soul, adding:

But I never went to university and I’m not that clever, I just don’t know.

Her views have set her apart from most in the British media and have made her somewhat of anomaly in a country growing increasingly critical of Israel’s government. Before returning to praising the country that she once said was the only one she would “fucking die for,” she says only half jokingly:

I love Bibi so much that I just would not trust myself meeting him. He’s married and I’m a married woman too; it just would not be good.

She flatly refuses to accept any notion that her blind love for a country that most other international journalists love to hate ultimately hurts its interests. When probed on this view, which is gaining credibility among some Diaspora Jews, she says:

I just don’t believe it. I can’t explain why because I’m not that clever, but I just don’t believe it. There are enough people out there attacking Israel and its people.

Harmful or not, what is obvious is that Burchill’s unwavering support has made her unpopular among certain groups in the UK and rendered her at loggerheads with various mainstream media, especially the Guardian. She confesses:

I couldn’t go on at the Guardian. It was mostly because they put my column on the same page as an opinion piece from Osama bin Laden. That was just it for me.

So, how did a working-class British Christian who never met a Jew until she was well into her 20s, become such a passionate Zionist? Tears welling up in her eyes, she says:

It was that ‘thing’ that happened. I’m not trying to get any pity from anyone, but it was because of my dad. Most dads have porn under their beds and children are curious about what’s under their parents’ beds, but my dad was so wonderful, he had a copy of the World at War magazine, the Holocaust edition. When I was about seven or eight I looked under his bed and found it; I have never been the same since. I was immensely moved by what I saw and my life changed profoundly. I’m not a Holocaust fetishist and I’ve not even seen Schindler’s List. Some people have an unhealthy interest in the Holocaust, but not me. I just think it should just never happen again.

Burchill, who grew up as an only child in a rural suburb of Bristol, had to wait at least another decade until she actually met a real Jew, and admits that she is still unsure how her romance with Israel grew so strong. However, what she is clear about is where Britain’s fascination with criticizing this country’s every move and defending its enemies at all costs stems from. She says:

It’s because of the ‘Turkish Delight’ advert that used to be on TV; it made all things Eastern seem exotic and mysterious. British people just love the Arabs, even the royal family refuses to visit here for that reason. I feel like I am being driven mad! When I hear people calling Israel ‘apartheid,’ I say that it’s the Arab countries that practice ‘gender’ apartheid and not Israel. People don’t look at the facts, Israel is a free and democratic country, it’s just so frustrating.

Whether her “uneducated” view of perceived bias is correct or not, what is clear from this conversation with Burchill is that she is “more pro-Zionist than my Jewish friends.” Putting her head down on her knees and covering it with the backs of her hands, she says:

Most Jews in Britain go like this. One time I told the rabbi in my shul, Rabbi Susie, she was a liberal and a lesbian, that she had to stand up for Israel and speak out against the Arabs, but she could not handle my extreme views and she kicked me out of the shul.

Even though Burchill does not elaborate on that point, I assume she is referring to the period in her life when her obsession with Judaism became so strong that she considered converting. She confides:

My Hebrew name was going to be Re’ut.

But she quickly tells me about a readers poll in the Jewish Chronicle that asked whether they would “prefer me on the inside looking out or on the outside looking in.” Shrugging her shoulders and lighting another cigarette, she laughs:

The overwhelming response was that they wanted me on the outside looking in. I think it was good logic because whenever a Jew stands up for Israel, everyone says that of course they are going to do that. But no one can really work out why I am so supportive of Israel, and neither can I.

4 Comments

  1. Hoarsewhisperer
    Posted October 30, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    “I met with the British ambassador yesterday and asked him if this was a crazy idea and he said, ‘No, it’s just what Israel needs.”

    I agree with the ambassador.
    The more feeble-minded and deluded crackpots Israel can recruit to its lost cause, the merrier.

  2. BillWade
    Posted October 30, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    She’s an odd one. Do the Israelis let tourists stay forever? What kind of visa could she be on there?

  3. kei&yuri
    Posted October 31, 2010 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Sebaba Tel Aviv and not Tel Aviv Sebaba or maybe Kol Sebaba B’Tel Aviv?

  4. kei&yuri
    Posted October 31, 2010 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    “British people just love the Arabs”

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