Israel’s parliament passed a law designating the country as a Jewish state, whose official language is Hebrew.
The law specifies that only the Jewish people have the right to national self-determination in Israel, which is the only significant right denied the Arab minority making up 20 per cent of the country’s population.
Predictably the Arabs screamed apartheid, ghetto, oppression, genocide and all the usual buzz words, while the Palestinian chieftain Abbas promised never to recognise Israel as a Jewish state.
This is perhaps the only promise he can be confidently expected to keep, considering that most Arab organisations under his aegis are committed to wiping Israel off the map and killing every Jew there.
While the Arabs are incensed, I’m quietly envious. Here’s one country that won’t compromise her nationhood, identity and indeed language. What an excellent example for all of us to follow.
All sorts of elements go into defining national identity, but the most instantly obvious ones are the people’s names and the language they speak.
Thus we aren’t surprised to hear a chap named Jean-Marie speak unaccented French, but we’d be astonished if a native English speaker introduced himself as John-Mary. We’d expect a Sven to be taciturn and suicidal, while a Mario has to gesticulate wildly and pinch women’s bottoms on public transport.
National traits and stereotypes, silly as they often may be, are to be cherished because they typify national character. If we didn’t have different national characters, we wouldn’t have different nations – like Marx’s proletarians who, according to him, have no motherland.
The most vital – some will say the only – function of the state is to protect both the nation and its character. Hence, call me a crypto-statist but I’d have no objections to the state enforcing not only a single language but also some set of baby names typical of the nation.
The French used to do just that by refusing to let parents give their children any names other than those of Catholic saints or great people of the past (recognised as such in France).
A list of authorised names was helpfully provided, and couples insisting on naming their progeny Indira or Abdul ran headlong into the stone wall of a curt “ce n’est pas français, ça”. That was it. End of argument.
Mitterand’s socialist government put an end to that commendable practice in 1993, but some residual sanity was preserved. Names “contrary to the best interest of the child” still aren’t allowed, much to the chagrin of progressive parents desperate to raise children named Nutella, Strawberry or Zigzag (actual examples).
Before my libertarian friends talk state tyranny and parents’ rights, they ought to ponder that Mohammed, with various spelling variants, is the most popular boy’s name in Britain. (This fact is camouflaged by the trick of describing each different spelling as a separate name, rather than appropriately lumping them all together.)
And it’s not just ethnic but also whimsical names that abound.
For example, a friend of mine has a granddaughter named Inca Sky, and he didn’t even disinherit his daughter, which I would have done. A brief scan of names gaining popularity in England will reveal a fair number of Elektras, Flors, Teklas, Indias, Lukas, Lokis, Cosmos and even Tarkas.
The odd Tarka Jones would be funny, but a profusion of non-British names compromises a key aspect of national identity. I’d welcome a law saying that British subjects must give their offspring British names – which Mohammed, Aisha, Nguen, Chan, Natasha or for that matter Inca Sky and Cosmo aren’t.
Even more damaging is the government’s refusal to be bloody-minded about enforcing English as the only language in which official business is transacted.
Thus NHS documents are routinely printed in uncountable languages, to cater for patients who can’t understand the Anglophone warning that women in the last trimester of pregnancy shouldn’t box professionally, or some such.
The last time I looked, we paid the NHS £23 million a year to provide interpreters in 128 (!) languages for visitors and Her Majesty’s subjects who haven’t bothered to learn Her Majesty’s tongue. And a lot more millions to translate and print thousands of meaningless forms, questionnaires and leaflets.
I spent much of this summer in French hospitals, and I didn’t see a single sign or leaflet in any language other than French. Talking to doctors and nurses, I had to muddle through in my rather limited French, with no interpreting help on offer.
Yet a monoglot Frenchman presenting at an NHS hospital would be given an interpreter to communicate that pub grub has given him agonising stomach pains. And even speakers of more exotic tongues would be accommodated.
One gets a distinct impression that the government is actively trying to eliminate each tell-tale sign of Britishness in the name of multi-culti diversity. Yet a nation deprived of unifying elements has to be moribund, says simple logic.
Any sensible person, which description doesn’t include Israel haters, will realise that for the Israelis asserting their nationhood is a matter of life or instant death. That’s one house that won’t stand if divided against itself.
Unlike Israel, Britain isn’t in a permanent state of war, fighting for its survival every minute of every day. But that doesn’t mean that our nationhood isn’t in peril.
We’re unlikely to suffer instant devastation, but slow yet ever-accelerating attrition can do the job just as effectively. And that’s even if we can resist dissolving our statehood in some wicked contrivance, which seems increasingly unlikely.