MELANIE PHILLIPS, THE JERUSALEM POST Apr. 21, 2005
In recent weeks, as the British general election campaign has loomed, it has seemed as if an anti-Jewish virus has been unleashed by the Left.
Labor election posters, now withdrawn, portrayed the Jewish leader of the Conservative Party, Michael Howard, as a sinister cross between Fagin and Svengali. A Labor minister, Peter Hain, referred to Howard as an "attack mongrel." And in the House of Lords, a Muslim Labor peer hosted a rabid Swedish anti-Semite who informed his audience of parliamentarians that the Jews controlled the mass media, that they were treacherous and that British Muslims would turn the tide against "Judaic values."
Jewish students are running a gauntlet of left-wing and Muslim hatred on campus, causing three Jewish officers of the National Union of Students to resign in protest at its indifference. Even now, the university teachers' union is debating a boycott of Israeli academics who fail to denounce Israel's policies. Jews are prominent in this hate-fest, too. Indeed, the media now like to use the good Jew/bad Jew device in public discussion, in which the "good" Jew dumps on Israel while the "bad" Jew defends it – thus additionally exposing the bad Jew to the charge of "dual loyalty" since the allegiance of Jews to Britain appears to have been made conditional upon their denouncing Israel.
Demographic change and crude political calculation explain some of this. There are 1.8 million Muslims in Britain and 280,000 identifying Jews. Senior Labor figures say privately that, as a result, the Jews have got to get used to the fact that their concerns are no longer of any account, that the Muslim vote is the only show in town and that therefore the Labor Party will adopt the "Muslim narrative" on Israel/Palestine.
There is no doubt that the paranoia and prejudice about Israel and the Jews that pours out of the Arab and Muslim world has significantly poisoned the atmosphere in Britain. But this is not the full explanation. There is a firestorm of anti-Jewish, anti-Israel and anti-American hatred in the wider population. On BBC panel shows, overwhelmingly conservative audiences cheer the view that America is the fount of world terror, that George W. Bush is more of a danger to the world than Saddam Hussein ever was, and that if any country is a menace to world peace through its weapons of mass destruction it is Israel.
More generally, far from expressing horror and outrage at the rampant medieval and Nazi tropes of Jew-hatred pouring out of Arab and Muslim countries, the British media seem to agree that there is indeed a world Jewish conspiracy linking the Jews of America, Israel and the war in Iraq.
In The Times, its premier columnist Simon Jenkins wrote in support of the argument that: " a small group of neo-conservatives contrived to take the greatest nation on Earth to war and kill thousands of people"; that they were "traitors to the American conservative tradition" who achieved a "seizure of Washington (and London) after 9/11" and that their "first commitment was to the defence of Israel." So according to Jenkins, the Jews possess extraordinary and sinister power which they exercise in a covert way to advance their own interests and harm the rest of mankind.
People say openly it would have been better had Israel never been created.
The "oldest hatred" has mutated from a desire to rid the world of the Jews into a desire to rid the world of the Jewish state.
I was discussing this with a commentator on the Left, someone with a reputation for an open-minded approach. "You've got this entirely wrong," he told me. "There is no upsurge of anti-Semitism among the public. What you have to understand is that we are just so relieved that we don't have to worry about the Jews any more. Ever since the war we were told that because of their suffering the Jews were above criticism. But now that's no longer the case."
In other words, the perception of Israel's misdeeds means that all the old prejudices that were kept under wraps can now be unleashed once again, and it is now open season on the Jews.
But all this can only properly be explained in a wider context still. People fix on Israel as the cause of Islamist terrorism, because through the relentless British TV pictures of Palestinians weeping in the rubble of houses demolished by the Israeli army, with a running commentary which predicates the myth of Israeli tanks against Palestinian stones, they are provided with a neat cause of righteous armchair indignation.
The actual causes of terror – the indoctrination from the cradle in gross Jew hatred, paranoid delusions about the West and a cult of death sanctified and even mandated by religious edict – are studiously ignored by the media which present it instead as a dispute over land.
Israel is demonized in a way that goes far beyond legitimate criticism. Of course, it should be criticized when it behaves badly. But its every action is reported malevolently, ascribing to it the worst possible motives and denying its own victimization. Indeed, its self-defense is regarded as intrinsically illegitimate and is routinely described instead as "vengeance" or "punishment." Sir Max Hastings wrote in the Guardian: "Israel does itself relentless harm by venting its spleen for suicide bombings upon the Palestinian people." And he implied that attempts by Israel or Russia to defend themselves from attack by killing terrorists were the equivalent of Nazi tactics or war crimes.
But probably the greatest single reason for the obsessive and unbalanced focus on Israel is the BBC. Unlike newspapers, the BBC is trusted as a paradigm of fairness and objectivity. In fact, it views the world from a default position on the Left. And since it regards this as the political center of gravity, it cannot acknowledge its own bias. The BBC is thus a perfectly closed thought system.
When it comes to Israel, it persistently presents it in the worst possible light. Its language and tone are loaded, it handles Arab and Israeli interviewees with double standards, and panel discussions are generally skewed with two or three speakers hostile to Israel against one defender or, more often, none at all. And it wears its heart on its sleeve for the Palestinians, who are presented not as aggressors motivated to murder by brainwashing in hatred of Israel and the Jews, but as innocent victims.
Why has the media succumbed to this epidemic of bigotry, blindness and bias?
Many reasons. The first is incompetence and fear. In tyrannies or police states where information is hard to get, journalists report what they are told and have neither the language skills nor the freedom to inquire whether it is actually true. At home, journalists are terrified of being tarred and feathered as an Islamophobe or "right-wing."
The second is the mind-set of the Left. Since it demonizes America and Western capitalism, and lionizes the third world and all liberation movements, America and Israel can never be victims, only aggressors, while the Muslim and Arab third world can only be victims because they are the powerless pawns of Western imperialism.
Then there is the cult of postmodernism to which the media, like the rest of intellectual Britain, has fallen victim. Some time ago, British journalism decided that objectivity was bunk and truth was relative. Facts stopped being sacred and news reporting became an expression of opinion.
These influences have propelled the Left into an unholy alliance with the Arab and Muslim world. As a result, both Western leftists and Eastern zealots share the perception of America and Israel as the Great and Little Satan, and march shoulder to shoulder at demonstrations against the Iraq war in Britain and Europe behind placards saying "No Blood for Oil" and (in Arabic) "Jews to the gas."
But it is not just the Left. Much of this thinking is shared by conservatives too because the Left has captured Britain's monolithic intelligentsia. And it has set itself to impose upon Western culture a deeply dysfunctional, morally inverted hegemony of ideas in which the values of marginalized or transgressive groups are substituted for the values of Western democracy.
Public debate in Britain is now marked by a collapse of objectivity, truth, fairness and balance caused by a post-Christian and anti-Western victim culture, which stands truth and morality on their heads. The outcome is that British people are increasingly unable to make moral distinctions based on behavior – which has produced a tendency to equate and then invert the role of the perpetrators of violence and that of their victims.
British hostility toward Israel and the Jews should be set in the context of this wider assault on the Christian values of its society. And behind these Christian values are Jewish values. It is the Jewish moral codes constraining human appetite in the blueprint for the values of Western civilization that are now under attack in the culture wars. It is therefore no coincidence that the people who gave the West its moral codes now find themselves at the very heart of the firestorm of hatred now engulfing Britain and Europe.
The writer is a British journalist and author. She is best known for her controversial column about political and social issues which currently appears in the Daily Mail.