Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph

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I know it’s supposed to be the festive season, but Christmas in Belfast can often be quite depressing. Usually the weather is foul, although it’s been quite nice this year. The throng of bargain-hunters means you can barely move in the town. And as if that wasn’t enough, the Prods continue their barbaric practice of buying their children the Broons annual…

Och, we do like it really. But by God, this is a shocking end to the year. Harold Pinter is dead, and I still find it hard to put into words what that means to me. Not only the loss to our literary world – much parodied he may be, but still essential – but, just as importantly, the loss of a voice of conscience and integrity, a determined foe of the Empire in an age when renegades are desperately trying to ditch anti-imperialism, someone who may have been wrong-headed on this or that issue but was always coming from the right place. Yes, Harold was one of us. Very sound on cricket, too – it’s probably that I’ll remember him best for, along with his agreeably dark sense of humour.

Then there’s the continuing assault on Gaza, which makes you wish Harold was still around. Really, the whole thing is disgusting. The inhabitants of Gaza, most of them refugees from what is now Israel, have had a pretty awful time of it for the past sixty years. Neglectful rule by the Nasserite Egyptians, an increasingly oppressive Israeli occupation, corruption and more oppression by Fatah… accompanied by living conditions steadily deteriorating into one of the worst slums in the world. And then, for the crime of making a democratic choice the great powers disapproved of, Gazans find themselves placed under siege and their territory turned into what’s little more than a giant concentration camp.

What now? Well, there is an election coming up in Israel in February, which probably means the IDF will continue to pound the shit out of Gaza until polling day, so as to prevent Bibi Netanyahu upbraiding the current “centre-left” government for softness on security. We also have talk of an IDF ground incursion, which will mean nothing more than an exponentially greater bloodbath. And in the meantime the butchers Olmert, Barak and Livni can rest easy in the knowledge that Uncle Sam will see them right. Nor need they be afraid of the incoming administration which, if anything, is even more rigidly Zionist than its predecessor.

It’s bad, very bad. And I can’t honestly see it getting better any time soon.

Rud eile: Please do whatever you can to support Hicham Yezza, the Nottingham student currently facing deportation under “War on Terror” legislation. This is a real scandal, and one where the British government may respond to some pressure.