British supermarkets have been advised to give more precise information about food products from the West Bank. Previously food was simply labelled ‘Produce of the West Bank’, but DEFRA guidelines recommending two choices – ‘Israeli settlement produce’ or ‘Palestinian produce’.
Israel responded with a predictable hissy fit arguing that they should not be singled out for this sort of treatment. Israeli spokesman Yigal Palmor argued on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme (11th December 2009) that there were lots of other regions where labelling could be split but typically refused to be drawn on what those regions might be. The blogosphere has, of course, raced into action, the move being welcomed by some and criticised by others.
In any event, this is hardly the first time that exports from the Holy Land have caused trouble for their neighbours. In the first Book of Samuel the problem is much more severe than incorrectly labelled dates or olives and invokes the wrath of God.
Around 1000 BCE, the Philistines, the westerly neighbours of the Israelites, ran off with the Ark of the Covenant and put it in the house of Dagon in the city of Ashdod. It’s the sort of silly thing that the Philistines were always doing and there’s a delightful sense of inevitability to their impending doom. At the end of the Steven Spielberg film, Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), the pilfering Nazis who steal the Ark are melted down like wax and whisked off to hell.
But with this first theft of the Ark, God had something a little different planned…
But the hand of the Lord was heavy upon them of Ashdod, and he destroyed them, and smote them with emerods, even Ashdod and the coasts thereof.
And when the men of Ashdod saw that it was so, they said, The ark of the God of Israel shall not abide with us: for his hand is sore upon us, and upon Dagon our god.
Emerods? Emerods? The quaint spelling of the King James Bible masks the full impact of God’s punishment. Haemorrhoids are what we’re dealing with here. Even Wesley admits that they’re good old-fashioned piles and we can only imagine how sore it must be to have God’s hand upon one.
As an unpleasant aside, the word ‘haemorrhoid’ comes from the Greek haimorrhoides phlebes (bleeding veins). ‘Piles’, on the other hand, is thought to come from the Latin pila (a ball), on account of their spherical, grape-like shape.
…after they had carried it about, the hand of the Lord was against the city with a very great destruction: and he smote the men of the city, both small and great, and they had emerods in their secret parts.
The men of Gath send the Ark on to Ekron. The Ekronites are less than happy about this but they too have to be struck down by haemorrhoids before the Philistines see sense and work out how to send the Ark home…
And they said, If ye send away the ark of the God of Israel, send it not empty; but in any wise return him a trespass offering: then ye shall be healed, and it shall be known to you why his hand is not removed from you.
Then said they, What shall be the trespass offering which we shall return to him? They answered, Five golden emerods, and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines: for one plague was on you all, and on your lords.
Wherefore ye shall make images of your emerods, and images of your mice…
Bizarrely, this seems to do the trick. God is presented with replicas of the five lords’ piles - made in gold, mind you, and with some mice to boot - and the Philistines are free to carry on their mischief another day.
Whether the ongoing crisis in the Middle East could be solved by the Palestinians offering up golden haemorrhoids to the Israelis obviously remains to be seen. My preferred peace offering would be this remarkable bronze of a giant enema bulb, here shown being unveiled outside the Maskuk Akva-Term spa in Zheleznovodsk, Russia (see here for full story).