Feb 2001 Journal

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Defence matters

The ‘media control’  libel needs to be as rigorously combated as any other

In his very first policy statement President-elect George W Bush pledged himself to uphold the security of Israel. Though his commitment was half-expected, Washington- watchers took it to be an earnest of the new incumbent’s intention not to ‘walk away’ from the Middle East.

Inside Israel, of course, opinion differs as to what constitute negotiable and non-negotiable aspects of the country’s security. The Right wing, for instance, contend that West Bank settlements received their sanction from the Bible, and are essential to the defence of the Israeli heartland; the Left argues that they overstretch the army and undermine Israel’s moral standing in the world. The defence of Israel is closely linked to that of Jewry as a whole, and in this cause we must exercise perpetual vigilance. Some readers thought our strictures on Jemima Khan unwarranted (see Letters p6). We believe, however, that allegations of American policy being in hock to Jewish interests requires wholehearted rebuttal because it feeds the most pervasive and poisonous antisemitic myth of all: the link between Jews and money.

There are undoubtedly monied Jews in America – a country that boasts over a million millionaires. Some have media interests, but not one is as powerful as the WASP media moguls Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner. The term mogul originally pertained to the studio bosses of Hollywood, and it is an undeniable fact that most of Tinseltown’s powerbrokers are Jews. But it was ever thus. The question is: does Hollywood really matter? For all that Jews dominated motion pictures from the start, an isolationist Congress remained stonily indifferent to the agony of Europe’s Jews till – and even after – the outbreak of war. Even in 1956, a dozen years after the Holocaust (which had left some mark on the Western consciousness) Secretary of State Dulles used American clout to deprive Israel of all the territory gained during the Suez Campaign. The final proof of the relative impotence of Hollywood in American politics is that although the motion picture industry has traditionally backed the Democrats, more Republicans than Democrats have been elected both to the White House and Congress during the last half century.

The notion that US presidents are somehow suborned by a crushing number of Jewish advisers is another canard that needs refuting. The Jewish input into US policy-making has a perfectly rational – and innocent – explanation. Jews (unlike Arabs) are part of the country’s historic ethnic mix; many have excelled at university, and White House staff are, for obvious reasons, largely recruited from among academic high-fliers. Not that Jewish presence in the upper echelons of government necessarily generates pro-Israeli policies. Edwin Montague opposed the Balfour Declaration in cabinet, Bruno Kreisky assiduously wooed the Arabs, and Yevgeni Primakov signally strengthened Soviet links with Iraq.

From such ‘professionally’ anti-Zionist Jews it is but a short step to politicking celebs like Jemimah Khan, whose part-Jewish ancestry ‘legitimises’ their anti-Israel diatribes. Another of that ilk is the comedian Alexie Sayle who told Independent readers that the Jewish state should never have been established on Palestinian soil. Instead, the comic wrote, a part of Germany should have been detached after the war and handed over to surviving Jews for settlement. Although all this sounds too ludicrous for words it was – unaccountably – printed in a quality newspaper. Are we wrong to think we would be failing in our duty, if we did not condemn all such noxious outpourings of spleen and misinformation in the strongest possible terms?

next article:1940 and All That