“Friends who care are friends who criticise.”

“I can’t imagine so many people coming to see me in Tel Aviv,” Gideon Levy quips with a wry smile. Jewish Book Week is hosting a controversial interview session (some had threatened to boycott it) with one of the most hated men in Israel, one of the relatively few ‘nice Jewish boys’ gone bad, representative of an “anti-Zionism [that] has become stupid and evil” according to Irit Linur, an Israeli author. Described as a modern-day prophet by Noam Chomsky, Levy has reported from inside the Occupied Territories for nearly three decades, with the aim of “rehumanising the Palestinians”. Despite all the opprobrium his reporting has generated, including having been labelled “one of the propagandists for Hamas” by Ben Dror Yemini, editor of Maariv, he still considers himself an Israeli patriot. He sits down, unperturbed, next to interviewer Johann Hari, gazing out at the 200 or so expectant faces in the …

How I wish the prohibition addicts would go cold-turkey

“Prohibition is an attempted cure that makes matters worse – for both the addict and the rest of us.” Thus, the late Milton Friedman outlined the scourge of a generation: how we deal with the drug problem. It has become the misguided moral crusade of major global superpowers to act as noble warriors in the so-called “War on Drugs”, fighting the “good” fight in lands far and wide, myopically neglecting to respond to the bitter consequences and consistent failures. World leaders must wake up and smell the coffee; the criminalisation of drugs merely acts as the worst possible palliative. And we’re hooked. The prohibition experiment’s time is up. Quite frankly, it’s failed on every count. 280,000 heroin addicts in Britain alone, almost £500 million per year spent on keeping UK prisoners in the clink for drug charges, and countless homicide victims despondently cry out for an alternative approach. Outside of …

Up in flames

Ignorance breeds intolerance; it’s just a shame to see the media fuelling it. The rapacious hounds of the tabloid press have played out the burn-the-Koran farce with their habitual feigned indignation, succeeding in whipping up a media tornado that serves only to fan the flames of hatred. A wisp of smoke billowing from a lonely Koran would hardly have changed the world. Yet as a media ruckus hysterically dramatises a non-event, we merely raise a plinth from which Pastor Jones’ contemptible preaching can reach a wider audience. As Jones’ unsubstantiated claims are disseminated through every available media outlet, the delirious pastor’s formerly paltry throng of disciples swells. His insensitive intention to burn the holy text of Islam, as a commemoration of those killed on 9/11, instantly received ubiquitous airtime. Before the fire was senselessly transformed into an incandescent blaze, this bigot was simply an oddball preaching in a tucked-away corner …