This week I read with interest the Hansard report of a recent debate in the British Parliament on the subject of anti-Semitism. One of the many pertinent subjects raised was that of the prevention of the spread of racial hatred via the internet and newspapers which those MPs taking part rightly consider to be an important priority. Hopefully, the Right Honourable John Mann (one of an increasingly rare breed of politicians who really do live up to the prefix) and his colleagues will be able to make speedy headway on this subject. But, until then, I suspect that we will have to put up with many more articles such as the one by Ian Williams which appeared on CiF on January 21st.
Leaving aside the article’s subject matter (Williams wants Obama to ‘call Israeli settlements illegal’, but of course does not trouble himself with the question ‘and then what?’), it is interesting and revealing to examine the methods Williams uses to persuade the reader to accept his case.
First, he sets out his disputable quasi-legal case according to which all settlements are illegal, with no nuance, no mention of alternative legal opinions and with wilful disregard of history. The point is, of course, to try to make it seem as though the ‘decent’ world thinks as one and Israelis are out of step with that ‘decent’ world.
Secondly, he establishes an identikit image of Israelis by assigning them stereotypical traits. They show ‘defiance’ even in the face of American bribes and can be likened to common criminals.
“It is as if you have caught someone stealing your car and the police decide to overlook technical issues like the law and ownership and instead tell you to negotiate with the thief to get occasional access to the back seat.”
Next, Williams goes on to invoke the age-old anti-Semitic trope of Jewish power in the form of the omnipotent ‘Israel lobby’.
“Of course, Obama has other problems, such as the economy and healthcare, and on the Middle East must face not only a rabidly pro-Israeli Republican party but also a majority of his own party that would sign up to a resolution declaring the moon to be made of blue cheese if the Israeli lobby demanded it.”
‘Rabidly pro-Israeli’ has very interesting connotations, implying both irrational and unusual behavior which presents a danger (it is common practice to put down rabid animals because of the threat they present to humans) and also the fact that such behavior is the result of infection by an outside force – a pathogen.
Next, Williams suggests that those who support Israel’s current government policies (which of course do not differ in any significant manner from the policies of previous, more Left-orientated, Israeli governments) are unanimously racist.
“Those who support Netanyahu tend to be those who think the president is a foreign-born crypto-Muslim anyway.”
Finally, for good measure, Williams introduces the old ‘money-grabbing Jews’ stereotype, insinuating that in this particular case it is the poor American ghetto residents who are being exploited by the rich and powerful Jew for his own ends.
“….including Irving Moskowitz, who recycles the proceeds of inner-city gambling in the US to buy and demolish property in East Jerusalem, such as the Shepherd Hotel….”
As we are only all too aware, this tawdry style of so-called ‘comment’ in which stereotypical and anti-Semitic themes are deliberately employed in order to appeal to readers’ baser instincts is no stranger to the pages of CiF. One seriously doubts whether an article on, say, the territorial dispute between Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Isles, or Britain and Spain over Gibraltar, would be published were it garnished with comparisons of the British to car thieves or references to the supposed racism of those who support continued British control over those regions. Such an article would surely be considered way below the standards of a serious newspaper.
But where Israel is concerned, anything goes at the Guardian – however low – and who better to carry on its grubby crusade than one such as Ian Williams, whose views dovetail so perfectly with the classic Guardian World View. He’s a fan of Jimmy Carter (mostly due to his views on Israel), can’t abide US Republicans or Tony Blair (who is apparently also merely a puppet of Israel), sees the ‘Israel lobby’ round every corner and suffers from some very confused ideas about terrorism which many would find plainly obscene. His overblown, condescending style and smug, simplistic commentary on some of the world’s more complicated issues combine to make him a master of empty rhetoric and clichés. Williams may indeed, as he likes to boast, have “more columns than the Parthenon”, but he also has a prejudice to adorn each one of them.
“ However, I am glad that I kept some reservations about the idea of Obama taking us to the New Jerusalem. Not least since he was busy giving away the old one to those who stole it.”
“In theoretical physics, superstring theorists posit up to eleven dimensions, most of them invisible. The road map, in contrast, has no less than fourteen strings that Ariel Sharon attached, all of which are invisible, or at least tacitly ignored by Britain and the “Quartet“ of Russia, Europe, the UN and the US.
In reality, of course, it shows fewer vital signs than John Cleese’s parrot or Ariel Sharon on life support.”
“But somehow it was considered rude to listen in on a not-so private conversation between the butcher of Sabra and Shatila and his electorate.”
“Indeed, the presence of Blair as an official Quartet representative, refusing to talk to Hamas, reinforces the recent conclusion, leaked to the Guardian from Alavaro de Soto, the UN’s previous special representative, that the Quartet is simply a means of binding the other parties to an American, and hence Israeli, agenda.”
In addition to considering himself quite the expert on all manner of subjects, Williams also appears to think that he is funny, perhaps even ‘edgy’, as is so fashionable these days around British middle class dining tables, along with the Free Trade plonk, the organic purple sprouting broccoli and the Frankie Boyle DVD.
In fact, his facile quips and racist gibes are not in the least unconventional or provocative. They are, however, very reminiscent of the types of conversation one used to be able to hear in a 1960s Liverpool pub in the days when nobody thought twice about a sign saying “No Blacks, No Irish”.
Were Williams not so obviously a victim of the Guardian-style group think which for some reason still regards anti-Semitism thinly disguised as ‘anti-Zionism’ as‘progressive’, he may actually be able to appreciate how archaic and reactionary those attitudes actually are.