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Issue 1344 : Features
Published on Thursday, 16 February 2006

Taleban kidnap victim, Yvonne Ridley, talks to Alon Or-bach

Yvonne Ridley

Yvonne Ridley came to fame when she was kidnapped by the Taleban in September 2001. Back then, she was working as a reporter for the Sunday Express, based in Pakistan, from where she made the trip to Afghanistan in the run up to the war.

Last week, Yvonne spoke at Imperial about the situation in Israel and Palestine. She arrived late, wearing a hijab and a Palestinian scarf and gibed that she'd "just slipped through the dress code at Imperial College". Now working as the political editor of the Islam Channel, she talked a recent experience when she was refused entry to Palestine and labelled as a terrorist when trying to cover the recent elections. Instead, she spent a few days in Jordan and was amazed that Palestinians living there formed two-thirds of the Jordanian population.

Previously, she was one of the first journalists in Jenin, Palestine, where she "could smell the death coming up from the rubble". She told a poignant story of a man called Marwen whose wife and son both bled to death in his arms after being refused any medical help by "laughing soldiers" upholding the siege on the town. "I always wear something Palestinian on me to remember Jenin".

She spoke of the contrast between how the UN treated Saddam Hussein and Ariel Sharon, "Sharon told the UN to `get stuffed', and that is exactly what the UN did". Her criticism of Israel didn't just stop at Sharon. "Israel is called a model democracy ­ I don't see any great signs of democracy in Israel". This tirade went on for some time, "Israel is a vile little state. It's propped up by America. It cannot survive without American money".

Trying somehow to relate the Palestinian situation to students, Ridley stated that the introduction of top-up tuition fees "Is linked in direct correlation to the war" and asked us to "Imagine how much better off you would all be if [the cost of the war] was put into the education system". Puzzlingly, far right groups use the same logic when demanding an end to international development aid ­ such as the aid given to Palestine.

Yvonne sits on the national council of Respect and stood as a Respect candidate in the last general election. "[Respect] is a Zionist-free party... if there was any Zionism in the Respect Party they would be hunted down and kicked out. We have no time for Zionists." She explained that government support "goes towards that disgusting little watchdog of America that is festering in the Middle East". She went on to attack the Tories and Lib Dems, saying that all the mainstream parties are "riddled with Zionists". I found it hard to comprehend how the notion that "[Respect] encompasses a broad church of ideas and opinions" could be compatible with the hunting down of supporters of an Israeli state. She approves of the recent Hamas victory, firmly stating, "I have no doubt that [Respect] will be supporting the Hamas-dominated government when it's formed in Palestine".

Ridley then plugged Respect's attempt to take control of Tower Hamlets and Newham councils. "When Respect takes control of those councils in the May elections, they will be hoisting up the Palestinian flag". She claimed that Respect's candidates in East London were "a reflection of what I see before me in the room today ­ a rich multicultural mix of people", (clearly assuming that nobody at the event was a Zionist ­ as they're not too welcome in Respect). She boasted "if anybody is being discriminated against in Tower Hamlets... it's probably the single white man".

When asked her views on suicide bombings, Ridley said, "I hate the term `suicide bombers' ­ it's an offensive term which was invented by the West to ridicule what many people regard as `martyrdom operations' ­ and you have to look at each one in context". She's not one to beat about the bush. "The Palestinians are faced with the fourth largest army in the world... Gone are the days of plucky little Israel ­ it's never going to be driven into the sea". But Ridley did offer some reservations, "The biggest shame about the Palestinian martyrs is that they rarely target their tormentors."

I asked her to talk about her kidnapping by the Taleban and what brought about her conversion to Islam. She was quick to jump to the defence of her captors, but explained that was not her feeling at the time: "It was ten terrifying days - each day I would wake up and think, `is this my last day on Earth?'". Ridley blamed her fear on the Western propaganda. "Throughout the ordeal, the Taleban treated me with courtesy, respect and kindness". She persistently denied Stockholm syndrome, the phenomenon of a hostage bonding with their captors, explaining how she went on hunger strike and refused to cooperate.

A Muslim Cleric offered her the chance to a get out if she would convert to Islam. She refused, but promised to read the Koran and study Islam. She explained how at first she did this to get a better understanding of the Muslim world but "what set out as an academic exercise rapidly turned into a spiritual one for me".

Overall, the debate was not so much that of `what now for Israel and Palestine?' as advertised but an all-out attack on Israel. Ridley criticised "the West's" ignorance of Islam and the situation in Palestine. What is clear is that Respect's policy on the Middle East, if that is what Ridley advocated, is pretty much in line with that of Hamas ­ and effectively calls for the destruction of Israel.

Alon Or-bach

There are 3 discussions:
Re: Taleban kidnap victim, Yvonne Ridley, talks to Alon Or-bach
Re: Taleban kidnap victim, Yvonne Ridley, talks to Alon Or-bach
Re: Taleban kidnap victim, Yvonne Ridley, talks to Alon Or-bach
Re: Taleban kidnap victim, Yvonne Ridley, talks to Alon Or-bach
Re: Taleban kidnap victim, Yvonne Ridley, talks to Alon Or-bach
Zachary Esterson says...
(Saturday, 25 February 2006 at 14:11)
Bernard Lewis writes how European Christian converts to Islam often imported their preoccupation with matters Jewish with them.

It was, historically, a major avenue for the export of European anti-semitism.

Ridley is the latest manifestation in a long tradition.

Evidence of her deep prior acquaintance with Christian tradition, let alone its modern critique, is slight.

Small wonder, then, that she was easily Evangelized by the alleged pristine immutability of the Qur'anic text, when 200 years of textual criticism has reduced the Bible, Christian and Jewish, to a human artefact.

The Prime Mover of her conversion, she writes, was Israeli 'desecration' of the Church of the Nativity (by a few stray bullets, despite its clergy's having sought Israeli deliverance from Palestinian Arab Muslim militants, not a little liberal with ordinance themselves).

Never mind that both Christianity and Islam have sought to alienate Jews from their holy land and places for, between them, nigh on 2000 years.

Never mind that Israel not only seeks not to demolish the Haram that is built on and from the Temple Mount, the temporal centre of the Jewish universe, but grants Christian custodians and the Waqf pretty much carte blanche in their activities, including excavations that have threatened or damaged the Western Wall.

No. What mattered was that non-Christians i.e. Jews were allegedly violating both Christian sanctities and (her) sensibilities (again?).

It is fleeting rare to be able to indulge such mediaeval Christian pieties (not a little reminiscent of the Crusaders�) in an increasingly more sophisticated post-Christian West.

Why, she wondered, do not 'we' stand up for what 'we' believe in?

Ridley longs for the sense of belonging and security that only Old Time Religion can bring.

And if your pious-ness is primarily expressed in the form of hostility towards Jews or Judaica, of one sort or another, Islam is were you will find that The Good Old Days are Here Again.

Amongst the less educated (often, least of all in Christian tradition), and culturally lost or confused (like, I suggest, Ridley), the sense of identity that 'Christendom' entailed, is, perhaps, increasingly to be found in the Ummah, the sole, proper (as it sees itself) successor and heir to the Body of Christ.

Anti-Zionism is the New Catholic (in its Universal sense) Confession
Re: Taleban kidnap victim, Yvonne Ridley, talks to Alon Or-bach
Re: Taleban kidnap victim, Yvonne Ridley, talks to Alon Or-bach
Zachary Esterson says...
(Saturday, 25 February 2006 at 16:11)
Hermosh@aol.com wrote:
Thank you for your letter,
where was it printed and in response to what? And have I ever done anything to offend you to p[rovoke such anger?
Yvonne Ridley

Dear Miss Ridley,

I think your protest at my 'anger' is a little disingenuous: your 'passionate' exclusion of 'Zionists' from RESPECT can be construed in exactly the same terms.

Yet I fail to see why a white western European cultural if rather ignorant Christian convert to Islam is entitled to identify with, say, Palestinian Arab Muslims more than, say, most Jews with most Israeli Jews.

i.e. I fail to see why you are entitled to be an anti-Zionist, but that I, like most Jews, am not entitled to be Zionist or pro-Zionist.

Afterall, by 1984, most Israeli Jews were descended from most of the non- or anti-Zionist Arab Jews which Arab Muslims, not entirely unlike your good self, 'excluded' from the Arab world.

By mid-2006, Israel will be the largest Jewish community in the world, and, should the Diaspora continue to shrink at present rates, through assimilation and intermarriage, Israel will be, mid 21st century, simply where most Jews live.

Clearly you favour the increase of the Ummah through conversion. Why may not Jews preserve the people of Israel in the land of Israel?

Moreover, if you are implying that I have a short fuse, Miss Ridley, I think I may reasonably respond that you are hardly the epitome of long-suffering yourself: I understand that one of the moments most conducive to your conversion was the perceived Israeli descecration of the Church of the Nativity by a few stray bullets.

I suggest, Miss Ridley, you try having been dispossessed of the Temple Mount, (Jews' Al Ka'ba), Yerushalayim (Jews' Am Makkah) and Eretz Yisroel (Jews' Al Hijaz) for nigh on 2000 years, with an ensuing history of statelessness, discrimination, genocide and/or ethnic cleansing, in Christendom and, ultimately, also in Islam.

Then decide whether you wish to fly off the handle. Your Damascene Moment bears all the hall marks of a diagnosed hysteric.

I am sure that playing at a sense of ethhic belonging is an entertaining past-time for a confused Westerner. But that does not entitle her to make others pay the price for her ignorance.

Are you aware that both Christian and Islamic tradition has been, for most of Christian and Islamic history, that the Jews are a people, nay, a nation whom g-d has dispossessed of temple, city and land, by Rome, the original western European empire, as a punishment for their rejection of Jesus and the prophets?

If you doubt me, read, inter alia, Surat Al Isra'a, in the original Arabic -if you can- where Rome is described as the servant of Allah.

Christian Rome confirmed that dispossession by using the temple mount as a rubbish tip, establishing Jerusalem as a gentile only colony and Christianizing the Syrians of Palestine, itself a colonial construct intended to ensure that no Jewish national territorial entity ever arose again.

Islam, although permitting a small number of Jews to live in Jerusalem, further alienated them by constructing the Haram, as well as discriminating against them as a people who had fallen from divine favour.

Even now, Israel seeks neither the destruction of Christian or Islamic holy places, despite the Haram's being constructed on and from the temporal centre of the Jewish universe, rather granting Muslims and Christians a de facto sovereignty such never granted to Jews.

More seriously, Miss Ridley, I rather suspect that your acquaintance with your own European Christian cultural heritage, especially with regard to Jews, was no more deep than your acquaintance with Islamic cultural history, least of all with regard to Jews.

But you are in distinguished company: even Yassir Arafat chose to lecture the President of the United States that no Jewish temple ever stood on the site of the Haram.


Zachary Esterson
Re: Taleban kidnap victim, Yvonne Ridley, talks to Alon Or-bach
abdullah twomey replies to Zachary Esterson...
(Friday, 14 April 2006 at 01:38)
dear mr Esterson

if you claim that by 1984 that most israeli jews were descended from non-zionist jews then why do most of them vote for parties like kadima and labour which refuse to pull back to the 1967 borders (including giving back stolen East Jerusalem)?

you ask why the jews may not preserve the people of israel in the land of israel- simple answer-because its not their land anymore. and this is not by fault of the muslims as it was the Romans and others (eg Crusaders) who kicked them out. I am irish of celtic origin. the celts came to ireland around 2500 years ago from central europe. do you think that us irish have the right to go to central europe, try to anihilate the people there and then set up an irish-celtic state? no? well jews dont have the right to go to palestine, cause war and set up a "jewish state".

and even if your jewish religion tells you that you have this right, then i am sure your religion would not condone the suffering you have caused the Palestinians. i reckon the victims of the Holocaust would turn in their graves if they saw how their descendants were treating another ethnic group....shame on the zionists!!!
Re: Taleban kidnap victim, Yvonne Ridley, talks to Alon Or-bach
Re: Taleban kidnap victim, Yvonne Ridley, talks to Alon Or-bach
Mohammed Ibnirhab says...
(Thursday, 8 June 2006 at 17:10)
There is no such country as Palestine. It is constantly refered to in the article erroneously. At most these can be considered territories- eg jenin, adminstered by the PLO (terrorist) organisation.
Yvonne Ridley is clearly crazy- suffering from Stockholm syndrome but that is no excuse for her racist anti-semitic venom. The real question that must be asked is how was she allowed to speak at College?
She is a supporter of terrorism- and indeed vented her support for homicide bombers during her talk- and also expressed her racist views.
Would it be ok for the BNP to come to talk at IC?
The real problem, for any intellectually honest person knows this, is not israel- a tiny country surrounded by 22 vast oil rich arab dictatorships bent on her destruction, but the arabs in particular and fundamentalist islam in general. A religion, of war, of jihad, of human rights abuse, of abuse of women, whose victims number millions of its own followers who are condemned to a life of primitivity and poverty. Great news about Zarqawi today but one down 10s of thousands to go!

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