Thursday, June 04, 2009

Simon Schama at Liberty Hall

A very fluent performance by Schama facilitated by Fintan O'Toole. You can see why the BBC paid him £3 million. He gave an amusing and illuminating perspective on American history unaided by any notes for about half and hour, before he started a rather po-faced dialogue with O'Toole. It was interesting to find out that Arlington cemetry was built on Robert E. Lee's garden. He is a keen admirer of Obama - particularly the way his world view is informed by a sense of history.

The one false note was when a venerable old dear asked him a question about the Israeli lobby in the US. He scoffed at the idea that any such monolithic entity existed - suggesting instead that there were conflicting Jewish views on Palestine and that this was typical of the Jewish liking for disputation; cracking a joke about the two synagogues on a desert island to illustrate this lovable trait. He described himslef as an "old Labour zionist" who favoured a two state solution in Palestine. Before this he had a go at the Taliban (and their hatred of writing and education) and the Wahhabis. Fair targets but dragged in perhaps.