Cracks in the bulwarks of decency

Why are The Critic and the Spectator rehashing inane anti-Israel malice?

The previous version of this piece contained errors, so this is a corrected version. Apologies.

In the past few weeks, two especially egregious examples of Israel demonisation and delegitimisation have surfaced in mainstream media magazines. 

The first, in The Critic, was by Janine di Giovanni which you can read here. The second, by Rian Malan in 2010, was republished in the Spectator and you can read that one here.

Both have been eviscerated by Adam Levick of Camera UK here and here

Di Giovanni’s article consisted of boiler-plate Israel-bashing, rehashing knee-jerk falsehoods about the “occupation,” air-brushing out of the picture Palestinian war-crimes against Israel and malevolently depicting Israel instead as the aggressor — the kind of lazy malice that you can read year in, year out in the Guardian, New York Times, Socialist Worker or other  Palestinian-narrative propaganda sheets.

Levick writes

Then, after she uncritically cites recent reports by the NGOs B’tselem and Human Rights Watch characterising Israel as an “apartheid” state, without mentioning detailed criticism of both reports, Giovanni turns up the demonising rhetoric by (in her own voice) criticising a two-state solution as something that would uphold the “status quo of a state that imposes Jewish ethno-national supremacy“.

“Jewish supremacy” is an antisemitic term historically used by Nazi Germany, and neo-Nazis.  The fact that it’s recently been resurrected by the anti-Zionist left, after being used one of the NGOs she cited, says more about the precipitous moral decline of the progressive movement than it does about Jewish nationalism.Giovanni then imagines a post-Zionist future:

But how would this kind of peace [sic] look, realistically? What if Gazans were allowed to fully develop their tremendous potential? Gaza has a 98 per cent literacy rate, a population of energetic and highly motivated young people who could become successful entrepreneurs if only Israel’s crippling embargo was lifted.

The idea that what’s really standing in the way of Gaza reaching its potential isn’t the authoritarian, antisemitic extremist movement controlling the territory, but, rather, Israeli measures preventing Hamas’s import of deadly weapons, evokes the Orwell quote that “some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals can believe them”.

In the republished Spectator piece, Rian Malan suddenly departed from an appreciation of FW de Klerk, the last president of apartheid-era South Africa who died last week and who bravely renounced the apartheid system he had formerly supported, to write this to underline de Klerk’s pluck and prescience: 

Anyone who has doubts on this score should consider what’s happened to Israel over the past 20 years. On the day de Klerk stepped up to the microphone to make his historic speech, God’s other chosen people were also contemplating the opportunities created by the end of the Cold War. They too were presented with a fleeting chance to make peace from a position of power, but the risks were too great, so they dug in their heels, refusing to make the painful concessions necessary to break their ancient stalemate with Palestine. Now they’re totally isolated, totally reliant on the protection of a declining America, and facing a deadly fundamentalist enemy interested only in their eradication.

Note first the sly juxtaposition which managed — without actually saying it — to impute to Israel the libel of “apartheid” which has now become the lethal weapon of choice for today’s demonisers and delegitimisers of Israel.

Note also the sneering reference to the Jews being God’s “other chosen people” — a gratuitous swipe designed to cause maximum offence and which tapped into the most fundamental resentment of those who hate and fear the Jews. 

But the most startling aspect of this piece was that the points he made about Israel were terribly wrong. As Levick observes:

Malan’s claim that it was Israel who refused “to make the painful concessions necessary to break their ancient stalemate with Palestine” is of course the opposite of the truth.  There’s no real historical debate over the fact that it was Yasser Arafat who turned down a US-brokered Israeli peace deal that would have given Palestinians, for the first time in history, a sovereign state – one that would have been contiguous and included nearly all of the West Bank, all of Gaza and a capital in east Jerusalem. 

What’s more, it’s untrue to say now that Israel is isolated. Since Malan wrote that piece, the Abraham Accords have resulted in Israel establishing full relations with the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. In 2016, Israel re-established ties with the West African Muslim nation of Guinea. In 2019, Israel revived diplomatic relations with the majority Muslim nation of Chad.  This past summer, 19 years after its ouster, the African Union reinstated Israel as an observer country.  And, earlier in the year, Israel established full relations with the majority Muslim country of Kosovo, and a few months later, they opened an embassy in Jerusalem.

Levick observes:

As even the Financial Times – no friend of Israel – recently argued, in the context of Jerusalem’s increasing ties around the world, the characterisation of Israel as an internationally “isolated” state has become a political anachronism.

Given all this, why did the Spectator re-run this piece?

Two things stand out from this. The first is not just the number of errors in these articles, but their eye-watering dislocation from easily ascertainable reality and factual evidence.

The second is that this malicious propaganda aimed at destroying Israel’s right to exist is the hallmark of elements on the left, which trade on both ignorance and ideological obsession. Both the Spectator and The Critic are supposed to stand against all that by providing intelligent and informed writing that elevates public discourse. Yet with these two pieces, they have joined the ranks of those who instead are corrupting public discourse and closing the western mind against truth and decency.

What on earth were these two editors thinking by publishing them? They appear to have seen nothing wrong with them. Perhaps they thought — if they thought anything at all about them — that they were merely “a point of view” just like any other? A controversy on which these editors need not have an opinion, since all they have to do is hold the ring in suitably Socratic editorial fashion? Valid contributions to public debate? 

But these lies, distortions and malicious libels against Israel are not valid contributions to public debate. They are part of a strategy to demonise, delegitimise and destroy Israel through a sustained propaganda campaign that has colonised the collective mind of the western intelligentsia. 

A strategy deployed against no other country, people or cause in the world. A strategy that incites hatred, paranoia and murderous violence. A strategy cooked up in the sixties by the Soviet Union and Yasser Arafat to knock the west off its moral compass so that it could be weakened and defeated. A strategy that has paved the way for the hijack of language and destruction of reason which fuel “intersectionality” and identity politics, and which are de-moralising the west in every sense of that word. 

This is the madness against which the Spectator and The Critic purport to act as a vital bulwark. Now, alas, that bulwark has cracked and is gaping wide open on a lethal battleground.

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