Melanie Phillips

26 October 2012

If only it were halfway true...

Published in: Jewish Chronicle

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The irrationality and prejudice inherent in the vilification of Israel are becoming ever more egregious.

A book launch staged by anti-Israel group Middle East Monitor at Senate House last week, chaired by the journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and including Tim Llewellyn, the former BBC Middle East correspondent and one-time executive committee member of the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding, (CAABU) appears to have been a virtual symphony of Judeophobic slander. As reported by blogger Richard Millett, Llewellyn's remarks were pretty eye-popping.

It was not just that he described the Jews in Israel as "an alien people in that region". Whether or not he really doesn't know that the Jews are the only people for whom Israel was ever their historic national home, that's the kind of thing one expects from an old CAABU hand.

Much more remarkable was his off-the-wall view of "Jewish power". For he suggested that not just the BBC but the entire British establishment was in thrall to a sinister, manipulative and all-powerful Jewish - sorry, Zionist - lobby.

Thus he claimed that, since the beginning of the second intifada, Israel had mounted "a tremendously well organised, careful, assiduous and extremely well financed propaganda campaign in this country".

If only, eh! The most obvious feature of Israel's "careful, well-organised, assiduous propaganda campaign" has been its total non-existence. Yet, according to Llewellyn, the outcome of this crushing pressure has been BBC self-censorship, with journalists being forced to add to reports "some kind of appeasing story of how terrible the Palestinians are or how the Israelis have suffered".

Rub your eyes indeed. This is the same BBC responsible for giving Britain and the world the entirely false impression that Israel is the ruthless, law-breaking driver of events in the Middle East - and, by minimising or failing to report attacks upon Israel, misrepresenting its defence against mass murder as aggression.

Worse, he claimed pressure was being brought to bear "through the higher level of pro-Israel Zionists who are scattered at strategic points throughout the British establishment, throughout British business and among the people whose voices are respected". All prominent Jews who defend Israel are thus smeared as part of some covert conspiracy, a deliberate infestation of British society to advance the cause of an "alien" people".

And just what is a "pro-Israel Zionist"? Sounds like an attempt to avoid the opprobrium of using the J-word.

He also claimed that, from remarks made by the head of BBC News, Helen Boaden, it appeared that "the Board of Deputies…for example, practically lives at the BBC. They're there all the time". One wonders what she really did say to give him this impression.

Whatever Ms Boaden herself may actually think, the nonsensical elevation of this pro-Israel "Jewish lobby" to uniquely powerful proportions has become a staple of apparently respectable discourse.

In fact, the "well-funded Israel lobby" is demonstrably an abject failure.  It's hardly surprising if, as Llewellyn claimed, the Palestinians don't lobby the BBC very much - they don't have to. The BBC is to a large extent their propaganda arm.

The horrible Senate House event - which also featured an Al Jazeera correspondent and Seumas Milne of the Guardian - might be dismissed as no more than a gathering of the usual suspects. But the wider salience of the unmistakable "Jewish lobby" trope confirms once again that irrationality and bigotry have gone mainstream in Britain.

About Melanie

Melanie Phillips 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. Awarded the Orwell Prize for journalism in 1996, she is the author of All Must Have Prizes, an acclaimed study of Britain's educational and moral crisis, which provoked the fury of educationists and the delight and relief of parents.

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Books

  • The World Turned Upside Down
  • Londonistan
  • The Ascent of Woman
  • America's Social Revolution

Contact Melanie

Melanie Phillips
Daily Mail
Northcliffe House
2 Derry Street
London W8 5TT

Contact Melanie