Melanie Phillips

17 February 2012

Middle Britain's amoral drift

Published in: Jewish Chronicle

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An invitation to appear as a Question Time panellist always sees your columnist dusting off her tin helmet, not to say donning full body armour and making her last will and testament.

Its audiences have been known to be less than universally friendly, and never more so than when Israel crops up. Indeed, the words "baying" and "mob" come to mind.

My most recent appearance was three weeks ago in Plymouth. The audience was notably less aggressive than others I have encountered: more benign and "Middle Britain"-ish.

Yet the last question was a bouncer. A woman asked whether, "since Israel has many more nuclear weapons than Iran", we should agree with President Obama's statement that no option (in other words, war with Iran) should be ruled out.

The question was based on an astonishing premise. In presenting such symmetry between Israel and Iran, it equated aggressor and victim.

For the reason Israel possesses nuclear weapons is to defend itself against attempted genocide. And one reason why Iran is racing to develop nuclear weapons is to fulfil the aim it repeatedly announces - to perpetrate genocide against Israel.

The premise was thus an odious one. Yet the audience cheered the absurd assertion that we couldn't believe anything said about the menace of Iran since we'd been told lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The question is how "Middle Britain" has come to nod along with such a disgusting symmetry. And behind that lies the deeper question of how, with all evidence pointing to an imminent nuclear Iran, and with the Iranian terrorist-supporting regime waging a self-declared war against the west, people remain seemingly oblivious to the threat it poses not just to Israel but to the world.

One reason is that many just aren't aware that the regime is dominated by apocalyptic religious fanatics, who want to bring about the end of the world - and so don't even care if Iran is destroyed -- because they believe this will bring to earth the Shia messiah, the Mahdi.

Instead, dear old empirical Britain believes that the Iranians are rational folk who will always ultimately act in their own interest.

Plus there's the natural tendency to react to a terrifying threat by pretending it doesn't exist and blaming someone else, which brings us back to the odious symmetry of that Question Time contribution. I think there are several reasons for it.

First, the relentless demonisation of Israel as illegitimate and bloodthirsty oppressors has had the effect intended by those behind this infernal propaganda (assisted by the Jewish Israel-bashers who have also bought into this rubbish) of softening up the west for a second genocide of the Jews.

But I think there's also a troubling cultural shift involved. This is the doctrine known as "consequentialism", which holds that the consequences of an action matter rather than the action itself.

We see this all around - for example, in the argument that the poor should receive benefits regardless of their behaviour because the only thing that matters is that they are poor.

The same thinking seems to apply to nuclear weapons. Thus the fact that Iran wants them in order to attack Israel, which by contrast only wants them to protect itself, makes no difference.

This focus on consequences renders quite irrelevant the moral choices people make. It is, in short, a doctrine for an amoral age. And so Israel, in its ghastly predicament, which elicits from the west merely monumental indifference, finds itself once again playing the role of canary - but this time in the moral mine where the air has turned so foul.

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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Melanie Phillips
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Contact Melanie