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May 2002 Journal

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Israel, the Jews and antisemitism

The journalist Melanie Phillips, pilloried by a BBC Television Question Time television audience when she spoke of Israel as a democracy, gave a penetrating analysis of British attitudes to Israel and the Jews to members of the Guild of Jewish Journalists.

Following 11 September Israel believed the world would have a greater understanding of its predicament. But the instant reaction was to place blame on the Jews and to see them, not as victims, but as the root cause of world terror! Victims and victimisers became inverted. The perception of Israel as an aggressor against a vulnerable and poor people gained strong currency in the UK and fed anti-Jewish feeling, fusing the ancient antisemitic prejudices with hatreds of more recent origin.

Israel’s presentation of its case was “catastrophic”. Criticism of Israel in the media went far beyond the legitimate, intemperate language revealing “a tone of malice and hatred”, downgrading the indiscriminate murder of its citizens. Israel was the aggressor guilty of territorial expansion, killing and destroying a people which had done Israel no wrong!

Underlying this was the belief that Israel should not exist at all - the world’s only state and people required perpetually to justify their existence. Criticism of Zionism led to attacks on the Jews and allegations of a Jewish conspiracy of power. She listened to the BBC with “disbelief” at the assumptions behind interviewers’ questioning and the hostility shown to Israel, while Palestinian spokesmen were rarely challenged.

The churches were hostile to Israel, harbouring ancient and ideological prejudices. Keen to identify victims, they had latched on to the Palestinians and sponsored humanitarian projects on the West Bank and Gaza where senior clerics visited only Palestine and Palestinians. Theological revisionism was rife and anti-Jewish doctrines promoted the ancient belief that Christianity had replaced Judaism in God’s favour. Jews had no history and Israel was not their land.

Melanie Phillips believed that “The worldview of the left had taken over our culture”: in its ideology the strong could do no good and the weak no wrong. Americanism and Western culture were abhorred as imperialist, racist and inimical to the poor, and Israel was regarded as an outpost of this evil Western empire. From this extraordinary perspective, “the USA brought September 11 on itself”, and equally, “Israel had it coming!”

Non-judgementalism had become an article of faith. ‘There is no truth – we don’t take sides – the conflict has to stop’ - splitting the difference between God and the Devil. The application of a doctrine of moral equivalence between the violence of the perpetrator and the victim meant that the present situation was ‘tit for tat’ and both sides had to be stopped. Equilibrium between the weak and the strong required that the terrorist be understood in terms of his living in squalor, etc, while the strong could not be the victim. In this scenario, lies are as valid as the truth. With no such thing as the truth, journalistic objectivity is destroyed. This worldview had become pervasive and even adopted by Israelis and Jews on the Left

The Left was fashionable and set the moral tone, which had made anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hatred acceptable in its turn. There was an extremely worrying attitude to Jews who ‘came out of the closet’, and for a journalist to defend Israel was regarded as being almost beyond the pale. “I believe that Jews are not allowed to be living victims that fight back,” concluded Melanie Phillips. “Dead Jews are preferred and the Holocaust is a burgeoning industry.” Israel could never win the argument even if it won the battle.
Ronald Channing

previous article:Central Office for Holocaust Claims