God help Britain

I’ve written more than once about the relationship between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. But a recent piece in the UK Guardian (circulation 279,000 in January 2011) surprised even me.

A creature named Deborah Orr writes a weekly column in that newspaper, which refers to her as “one of Britain’s leading social and political commentators.” God help Britain, then.

Orr rarely if ever writes about Israel – indeed, going back to January of this year I can find no other mention of the subject. So she is not one of the multitude of professional Israel-bashers, which makes it worse.

Here is the whole ugly thing:

It’s quite something, the prisoner swap between Hamas and the Israeli government that returns Gilad Shalit to his family, and more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners to theirs. The deal is widely viewed as a victory for Hamas, the radical Islamist group that gained power in Gaza after years of frustration at the intractability of the “peace process”. Conversely, it is being seen by some as a sign of weakness in Israel’s rightwing prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

All this, I fear, is simply an indication of how inured the world has become to the obscene idea that Israeli lives are more important than Palestinian lives. Netanyahu argues that he acted because he values Shalit’s life so greatly.

Yet who is surprised really, to learn that Netanyahu sees one Israeli’s freedom as a fair exchange for the freedom of so many Palestinians? Likewise, Hamas wished to use their human bargaining chip to gain release for as many Palestinians as they could. They don’t have much to bargain with.

At the same time, however, there is something abject in their eagerness to accept a transfer that tacitly acknowledges what so many Zionists believe – that the lives of the chosen are of hugely greater consequence than those of their unfortunate neighbours. [my emphasis]

What Orr has done is standard procedure for those who meld hating the Jewish State with hating Jews. She takes bare facts and imputes to them the worst possible motives, in this case entirely inverting the truth.

The truth of the Shalit affair is this: Hamas snatched a young soldier and held him underground, incommunicado, for more than five years, in order to use him to extort the release of convicted terrorists, including the most vicious murderers of innocents.

Due to the confluence of an effective public relations campaign waged by Shalit’s parents, which touched the hearts of Israelis whose sons and daughters are conscripted into the IDF, and political factors affecting both the Netanyahu government and Hamas, a deal was made. It is highly disadvantageous to Israel, freeing dangerous and unrepentant criminals, destroying the deterrent effect of imprisonment, boosting the political fortune and morale of Hamas, and causing pain and fear to the bereaved families of the terrorists’ victims. There has already been a surge of terror attacks – stabbings and arson – as the Arabs mark their triumph.

Nevertheless there was a overwhelming feeling of joy in Israel, that the state cared enough about one soldier – everyone’s son – to take the risks and accept the humiliation that the deal implied.

It is this feeling that Orr renders as a belief that “the lives of the chosen are of hugely greater consequence…”!

She implies that the reason this deal is viewed as a victory for Hamas and a defeat for the Netanyahu government is not because, in objective, strategic terms, it was both of those, but rather because the world is “inured … to the obscene idea that Israeli lives are worth more than Palestinian lives.”

What is obscene here is Orr’s taking a situation in which Israeli Jews have been victimized — first by terrorist murders, then by Shalit’s captivity, and finally by having the murderers freed — and turning it into yet another false accusation of Jewish racism.

Note also her use of the concept of “the chosen,” a staple of antisemitic  discourse, which falsely claims that it is a principle of Judaism that Jews are superior to non-Jews.

It’s interesting that Orr, who usually writes about popular culture and likely cares about understanding how the public thinks and feels, didn’t notice how objectionable her piece really is. Or maybe she is in sync with her audience.

Everyone knows that the Guardian’s point of view is radically anti-Israel. But this piece more than crosses the line and should have been rejected by the editor. Perhaps he or she didn’t notice that either.

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5 Responses to “God help Britain”

  1. Lise Rosenthal says:

    Who devalues Palestinian lives? Netanyahu? Or the Palestinian mother whose highest hope for her child is that he be a martyr?

  2. Robman says:

    Great point, Lise.

    I’d add a note of interest: In her recent column, “Prayer for 5772”, Caroline Glick lists some survey data for anti-Semitism among various populations. Britain is among the lowest in the West, at 7% of respondents among “natives” [non-immigran] expressing decidedly anti-Semitic views to pollsters. This is less than half the average for the U.S. population as a whole (15%), and less than third the number for Germany (22%). This data indicates that at the street level – Moslem population aside [who polled at well over 30%] – Britain is among the least anti-Semitic populations in the Western world. (Another interesting note: these same polls showed practically negligible numbers for non-Moslem Asian societies, such as China; South Korea and China can be fairly said to be philo-Semitic, to the extent that people in these countries express any opinion about Jews).

    This is anecdotally supported by a dual-citizen Israeli/U.S. friend of mine, who lived in Britain during the 1970s, and who swears up and down that average Joe and Jane Britons are neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Israel.

    In addition, a Palestinian Jordanian Moslem democracy activist with whom I’m in communication with, one Mudar Zahran, who lives as an expat/exile in Britain today, also says that despite the awful media, British nationals by and large are not hostile to Jews or Israel. He stresses the validity of his claim by pointing out that as a Palestinian, the Brits he associates with would not “pull punches” on this topic.

    A LOT of Saudi money goes into the British academic and media institutions. A while back, I saw an article on the website of SPME – Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, a pro-Israel academic forum – that indicated that the British government was expressing concern over the fact that the Saudis were putting more money into British higher education than the British government themselves. Elsewhere, I’ve also heard rumors of extensive Saudi influence at the BBC.

    Connect the dots, people.

    The same thing is happening here.

    Are the NYT, USA Today, The L.A. Times, CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, much better?

  3. Shalom Freedman says:

    This is a reply to Robman. I would not trust the data. The British might seemly have a better sense of what attitudes it is not appropriate to admit to.
    My own impression from my brief experiences in England and from my reading of many different English writers is that Anti- Semitic views are quite widespread particularly among the upper class. There are of course fiercely pro- Jewish and pro- Israeli people in Great Britain.

  4. David says:

    Deborah Orr just made an ass of herself that’s all. She’s even (sort of) apologised for using intemperate language in her article (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/oct/26/call-israel-to-accountw.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/oct/19/israeli-lives-more-important-palestinian). Far more worrying are the media-powerful and savvy journalists of Israel’s left. In a recent post in Haaretz, for example, Alon Idan put forward the very same thesis as Ms Orr’s in the Guardian. Coincidence perhaps? I think not. See the Idan piece here http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/shalit-deal-reveals-israel-s-superiority-complex-1.392401

  5. Vic Rosenthal says:

    I read Idan’s piece several times. His ‘argument’ seems to be that Hamas knew that Israel would agree to an outrageous price because of its racist nature, and so it pressed its demands!

    There is only one feat of illogic that even comes close, and that is the prize-winning paper written by Tal Nitzan of Hebrew University in which she proposes that IDF soldiers do NOT rape Palestinian women because… they are racists!