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Published on: May 13, 2012
The BBC and “The Jews”

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNAKWF1uQ08′] “American Presidents have long been criticized for being too in thrall to the Jewish lobby. The American Jews influence US foreign policy and that explains Washington’s unwavering support for Israel.” Who made this statement this past week? (a) A disgruntled fringe neo-Nazi (b) Some poor soul ranting on their Facebook page (c) The […]

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNAKWF1uQ08′]

“American Presidents have long been criticized for being too in thrall to the Jewish lobby. The American Jews influence US foreign policy and that explains Washington’s unwavering support for Israel.”

Who made this statement this past week?

(a) A disgruntled fringe neo-Nazi
(b) Some poor soul ranting on their Facebook page
(c) The BBC

Sadly, as you can see in the clip above, the answer is C. This ugly assertion is the host’s opening line in an episode of this past week’s BBC HARDtalk program. This vicious garbage isn’t “sort of” or “almost” anti-Semitic; it is the real thing: vivid, unapologetic, odious and wrong.

The BBC presenter, hopefully just reading a script that some fool of a writer threw up on the teleprompter, (or, as some readers suggest in the comments since this post first appeared, voicing a view that she does not personally endorse) gives voice to some of the dumbest and ugliest classic anti-Semitic tropes. To speak of “the Jews” in the aggregate, as though they form a monolithic super-entity with a single view and agenda, is exactly the kind of thinking that gutter anti-Semitism embraces in every age. To talk of an all-powerful “Jewish lobby” which controls American foreign policy is to embrace the paranoid fantasies of the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

But don’t take Via Meadia‘s word for it. Listen to some of Israel’s most strident critics in America–Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, authors of the deeply problematic The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy–explain just how wrongheaded the term “Jewish lobby” is. Responding to a negative review of their book in the NY Times, the professors write:

Gelb refers repeatedly to a “Jewish lobby,” despite the fact that we never employ the term in our book. Indeed, we explicitly rejected this label as inaccurate and misleading, both because the lobby includes non-Jews like the Christian Zionists and because many Jewish Americans do not support the hard-line policies favored by its most powerful elements. The Israel lobby, we emphasized, is defined by its “specific political agenda … not the religious or ethnic identity of those pushing it.”

(Full disclosure: Les Gelb, author of that review and former President of the Council on Foreign Relations is both a former boss and a valued friend. His review of the book was brilliant.)

Somehow, the BBC intro, which gaily and giddily rushes in where Walt and Mearsheimer fear to tread, managed to miss these basic truths. Apparently in educated British circles you can now voice the most virulent and stupid ideas as if they were simple common sense. What is this “Jewish influence” that the Beeb thinks makes a mockery of American democracy and controls the ignorant Gentile masses, who are but passive putty in the hands of their sinister Jewish overlords?

Is it George Soros, Barbra Streisand, Peter Beinart and Noam Chomsky? Is it John Hagee, Mitt Romney, Bill O’Reilly and Sarah Palin?

American Jews voted against George W. Bush in overwhelming numbers. American Jews gave far more money to the Gore and Kerry campaigns than to the Bush campaign. President Obama remains far more popular with American Jews than with any other ‘white’ ethnic group. Yet all over the world, George W. Bush’s Israel policy was seen as the result of the supposedly irresistible power of “Jewish” money and “Jewish” influence. In reality, if Jewish money and Jewish votes controlled the American political system, George W. Bush would never have gotten past the White House door. But little facts like that can’t disturb the Beeb’s serene faith in the overwhelming might and sinister Zionist fixation of “the Jews.”

And the opposition that derailed President Obama’s initial approach toward Israel? Obviously, those dirty Jews again — never mind that a majority supports him still. Facts live in one place and narratives live in another; there is no need for them ever to meet when you are broadcasting for the BBC.

No, the Beeb knows a Jewish lobby when it sees one. This taxpayer-supported broadcast would have viewers believe that there is a shared, sinister Jewish agenda being imposed upon the American body politic through “influence” rather than democracy. To the addled mind of the Jew hater, “the Jews” act in concert, of one mind, with irresistible force and with a single pernicious agenda. Israel policy is thus set by the fiat of the 1.8% of the population that is Jewish, rather than the prevailing opinions of the 98.2% that is not — a formulation that ignores both the diversity of views among the 1.8 percent and the political ideas and preferences of the non-Jewish majority.

The BBC host and her writers would doubtless bristle at the suggestion that they were uncritically blasting the most blatant and ignorant anti-Semitic tropes over the airwaves. After all, the host does forcefully interrogate Israel critic Norman Finkelstein in the interview that follows. There can be no denying that the episode makes a conscious effort to be fair-minded and is much, much better than its catastrophically nasty and inaccurate lead.

But this is why the casual deployment of the phrase “Jewish lobby” at its outset is so disquieting. The presence of the centuries-old canard on a respectable television show reminds us how difficult it can be to root out generations worth of cultural prejudice. The presenter’s opening assertion is so shocking not because she’s trying to be anti-Semitic, but because she’s trying so hard not to be–and yet fails to avoid the crudest kind of mistake.

Just as studies regularly show that subconscious racism still prevails in America even among those without a conscious racist bone in their bodies, moments like this on the BBC reveal just how difficult it truly is to eradicate anti-Semitic attitudes even in the most enlightened and progressive sectors of contemporary Europe.

But fight those attitudes we must. For when these dangerous assumptions about Jews are allowed to fester, they soon create an atmosphere which is dangerous for Jews and where violence against them becomes increasingly commonplace–as we are seeing today across Europe, from France to Sweden, not to mention the rising anti-Jewish invective in places like Germany, Hungary and Norway. If evils aren’t fought, they will grow.

Via Meadia spends quite a bit of time calling attention to the ominous rise of anti-Semitism around the world. It isn’t because we think that anti-Semitism is the only form of hate and bigotry in the world, or that we think that it is more important to fight prejudice against Jews than prejudice against other people. But anti-Semitism, besides being on the ascent at times when many other forms of hatred are mostly on the back foot, is particularly dangerous, and not just because of what anti-Semitism can do and has done to the Jews.

The rise of anti-Semitism is a sign of widespread social and cultural failure. It is a leading indicator of a loss of faith in liberal values and of a diminished capacity to understand the modern world and to thrive in it. Societies that tolerate anti-Semitism take a fateful step toward the loss of both freedom and prosperity. People who think “the Jews” run the banks lose the ability to understand, much less to operate financial systems. People who think “the Jews” dominate business through hidden structures can’t build or long maintain a successful modern economy. People who think “the Jews” dominate politics lose their ability to interpret political events, to diagnose social evils and to organize effectively for positive change. People who think “the Jews” run the media and control the news lose the ability to grasp what is happening around them. And people who think “the Jews” control America’s Middle Eastern policy lose the ability to understand, much less to influence, American policy in this vital part of the world. Emancipation from anti-Semitism is thus one of the necessary steps that many individuals and cultures have to take before they are able to act effectively and participate meaningfully in contemporary life.

Jew hatred isn’t more stupid or more wicked than other forms of racial and religious hatred. The anti-black bigot is as delusional as the Jew hater; hatred and prejudice of all kinds corrode the intelligence and degrade the spirit of everyone who suffers from them. But Jew hatred is more disempowering and self-defeating than most other kinds of hate because it involves not only negative emotions about a group of people but a deeply false set of ideas about how the world works.

Confident, forward-looking and dynamic societies are neither threatened by Jewish success nor offended by the cultural diversity that results from the free participation of Jews in civic and cultural life. They can come to grips with the vicissitudes of capitalist economics without being sidetracked by conspiracy theories and fantasies.

Failing societies and weak minds, on the other hand, are easily seduced by attractive but empty generalizations. The comment attributed to August Bebel that anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools can be extended to many other kinds of cheap and superficial errors that people make. The baffled, frustrated and the bewildered seek a grand, simplifying hypothesis that can bring some kind of ordered explanation to a confusing world; anti-Semitism is one of the glittering frauds that attract the overwhelmed and the uncomprehending.

Hitler and his followers believed that “the Jews” were responsible for Germany’s external and internal problems. They really believed that “the Jews” controlled American policy and that in both the US and the USSR “the Jews” worked systemically to weaken and degrade nations so foolish as to host them. Hitler really thought that “the Jews” in the United States and the USSR would inevitably make those countries his enemies — but that “the Jews” had so weakened and corrupted those countries with their destructive, parasitical behavior that neither the US nor the USSR could beat him in battle.  Those errors weren’t just intellectual curiosities; they shaped the key strategic decisions that destroyed his regime. “The Jews” didn’t bring Hitler and his movement down, but his hateful and stupid ideas about them blinded him — and that blindness led to his fall even as it also led him and his followers to commit unspeakable crimes.

Not to compare them to Hitler, but Palestinians and Arabs under the delusion that “the Jews” are responsible for American policy in the Middle East have squandered tens of millions of dollars and wasted decades in foolish strategies to change American opinion based on this grotesque misconception of American realities. Europeans under that same delusion fail to grasp how American policy works, what its priorities and limits are, and where there is room for friendly outsiders to intervene with effect.

Jew haters don’t understand how the world works; anti-Semitism is both a cause and a consequence of a basic failure to comprehend the way pluralistic and liberal societies behave. As a result, nations and political establishments warped by this hatred tend to make one dumb decision after another — starting at shadows, warding off imaginary dangers, misunderstanding the nature of the problems they face.

Via Meadia‘s fight against anti-Semitism isn’t just about solidarity with threatened or scapegoated Jews. It is also about the fight for lucidity, liberalism and sound social and international policy. Where Jew hatred flourishes, no freedom is safe and no country is strong.

Anti-Semitism is not just a moral obscenity; it is the road to intellectual and political ruin. At Via Meadia we will do what we can to dissuade people from venturing down this blindest of alleys.

[Note: this is an updated version of the original post.]

show comments
  • Brett

    This vicious garbage isn’t “sort of” or “almost” anti-Semitic; it is the real thing: vivid, unapologetic, odious and wrong.

    Don’t be ridiculous. American Presidents have been criticized for being too close to Israel, and there’s no question that lobbying and support for Israel among the Jewish community in the US plays a role in the US’s continued support for Israel.

    It’s actually a very mild, straightforward statement, to which you responded with the typical over-the-top hysteria that emerges whenever someone points out that yes, ethnic lobbying (including by American Jews) does exist in the US and has an impact on foreign policy. It’s not just the Jewish community either – why do you think the Armenian Genocide issue kept getting brought up in Congress, even though it was poking a valued ally (Turkey) in the eye every time we did it?

    Not to compare them to Hitler, but Palestinians and Arabs under the delusion that “the Jews” are responsible for American policy in the Middle East have squandered tens of millions of dollars and wasted decades in foolish strategies to change American opinion based on this grotesque misconception of American realities.

    Can you think of a real policy justification for the degree of continued support and backing that we give Israel in the post-Cold War period?

    Supporting Israel made sense in the Cold War. They were our proxy partner, along with the Saudis, against the various Soviet-aligned states in the region. They provided valuable intelligence.

    Now, though, such one-sided favoritism towards Israel undermines our relations with the rest of the region – a very dangerous thing when democratization is sweeping it (including the critically important Egypt). Yet any public criticism of this is immediately associated with anti-semitism, and that type of response has only gotten more and more shrill* as time progresses.

    * It reminds me of how the South became more and more shrill and racist in response to increasing abolitionist sentiment in the 1840s and 1850s.

  • Contrararian

    The conflation of one presenter in one programme making one stupid statement with “the BBC” as a whole makes our host look just as silly as the lady in the clip.

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    A little less noise please. All this anti-anti-Semitism screaming only serves to give publicity to the fallacy you mean to combat (at least in my judgment.)

    If you want to criticize Europe in this regard better to highlight her historic responsibility for causing the Israeli-Palestininian conflict and the element of projection involved in blaming Israel or in this case American Jews for a situation which is actually of Europe’s own doing.

    Europe must take responsibility for the Palestinian refugees. They are a long way from that realization now, but there is literally no other way to bring this conflict to an end.

    As for non-Ashkenazi Americans like me — our role should be to persuade Europe to accept this responsibility. We should begin with Germany, in my judgment, not because Germany is most guilty in this regard, but because she is least guilty.

  • Jules

    When she says “The American Jews influence US foreign policy and that explains Washington’s unwavering support for Israel” she is merely saying that that is a criticism that is made around the world. You can’t separate that quotation from the first sentence – “American presidents have long been criticized…”. I think WRM’s has misinterpreted her.

    An argument could be made that the people who make this critique regarding American Jews and their influence are anti-Semitic – though to me that just smacks of the usual American hyper-sensitivity on ethnic issues – but she herself is not flippantly saying Jews have influence. She’s just telling what critics of American foreign policy often say. At least that’s how I interpreted it.

  • Kevin

    The author convienently leaves out of the article the fact that Norman Finklstein’s ethnicity is in fact Jewish. Who’s the one with agenda and axe to grind? Omitting Mr. Finklestein’s ethnicity in the article’s criticism removes a key context for his comments and only serves to reinforce that ANY criticism is not tolerated whether relevant or otherwise.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @Kevin: I doubt that many readers were unaware of Mr. Finkelstein’s ethnic background.

  • Cunctator

    #2 – Contrarian: contrary to what you seem to be implying in your short comment, the BBC has actually been found (at least on one occasion) of being biased in favour of anti-Israel reporting. As someone who has watched the Beeb for years, I think it is safe to say that being anti-Israel easily morphs for many there into the sort of anti-semitic commentary that WRM is noting. (By the way, much the same is present in Canada’s CBC, so perhaps there is some link to being state-funded.)

    By the way, The Daily Telegraph ran an article just this week about the anti-Christian/pro-Islam bias of the BBC, a perspective openly endorsed by the chairman of the network himself.

    Anyhow, I don’t know why this is such a shock. Europe has always been anti-Semitic to greater or lesser extent. But, shamed by the Holocaust, two generations submerged those feelings. But, now, aided by a huge and growing Muslim population that is anti-Semitic to its bones, those old sentiments are resurfacing.

  • Kris

    American Jews voted against George W. Bush in overwhelming numbers. American Jews gave far more money to the Gore and Kerry campaigns than to the Bush campaign. President Obama remains far more popular with American Jews than with any other ‘white’ ethnic group.

    Congratulations on so successfully demolishing the “Jews as masterminds” trope! :-)

    More seriously, you accurately present my own special problem with anti-Semitism: its sheer illogic and maladaptation. Similarly: some Islamists hate the US for religious reasons and would gladly destroy it. while I consider them mortal enemies who should be crushed, I have less of an “intellectual problem” with them than with 9/11 “Truthers”. (Humor.)

    Brett@1: “Yet any public criticism of this [favoritism to Israel] is immediately associated with anti-semitism”

    Frankly, what is ever more common is people letting loose with criticism of Israel and then preemptively staking their claim to heroism and martyrdom.

  • Kris

    Drip. What? Drip. Drip. Rain? Drip. Drip. Drip. What rain? Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. You mean those drops? Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Come on, it’s just a few drops. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Do stop exaggerating. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. “Rain” indeed! What a hysterical ombrophobe! Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip.

  • Bialik

    People say all sorts of wrongheaded things. David Icke says stuff about who controls the world too. But that’s not a good reason to quote it.

    I think the BBC should be more sensitive about quoting misconceptions about ethnic groups, especially when these tie in to beliefs that have caused incitement of hatred in the past (and still do.) That’s a reasonable request.

    Besides, news and current affairs organisations that repeat erroneous claims are not doing their job properly. Unless it is in the context of a programme which illustrates their absurdity.

  • Paul Graham

    Oh, seriously, watch that video again.

    The sentence is clearly used by the presenter “in quotation marks” as a device to introduce the controversial point of view held by the subject of the interview, which she intends then to challenge the interviewee on. The quoted remarks are presented neither as the BBC’s views nor as the presenter’s.

    Get a grip.

  • Philip Harold

    Discourse in Israel is a lot more open than in the US. Israelis know that Washington is a lot more important to what happens to them that their own government.

    Uncritical US support for Israel is not in Israel’s best interest. I love Israel, and as Americans we need to realize that current American policy does not favor the long-term best interests of Israel. Unfortunately, the canard of anti-Semitism is thrown at people who make this point. This has been going on a long time, as has the illegal occupation and persecution of the Palestinians by the Israelis. Both are getting old.

    The success of shouting down all opposition to uncritical US support of Israel by labeling them anti-Semitic is waning. The Israel Lobby is still extremely powerful, but people are now aware of it.

    This is a positive development. It has to do with brave souls speaking the truth against the kind of nonsense on display here. I look forward to the day when tiresome screeds like this are saved for real instances of anti-Semitism, when US policy towards Israel favors the best interests of both countries, and when the nations surrounding Israel look upon her as a good neighbor (*that* is Israel’s long-term best interest, not forever living by the sword).

  • Mick The Reactionary

    An interesting thing is Obama can do virtually anything damaging to Israel and Jews will still give him 75% of their vote.

    He can do a lot of damage to American Jews and they still will vote for him.

    I think if Barry will take all money of 100 richest American Jews and put them in jail, Jews will vote for Barry.

    Sometimes I wonder if Barry will make Jews wear yellow star, will they vote for Romney. They might, by 52%-48% majority.

  • hepzeeba

    Luke Lea @3  A little less noise please.

    Surely you jest. Let me repeat one of the things that WRM wrote:

    The rise of anti-Semitism is a sign of widespread social and cultural failure. It is a leading indicator of a loss of faith in liberal values and of a diminished capacity to understand the modern world and to thrive in it. Societies that tolerate anti-Semitism take a fateful step toward the loss of both freedom and prosperity.

    And let me add, if I may, that turning a blind eye to the rise of anti-Semitism is, likewise, a sign of social and cultural failure–even if it is the so-called “casual anti-Semitism” so familiar in Europe in the early to mid-twentieth century. Back then, it was perfectly acceptable to say all kinds of things in public about Jews in general, as if “the Jews” were a monolithic entity.

    In Britain, they seem to have turned the clock back to such a time. Perhaps you are unaware of a different but equally explicit manifestation of this kind of anti-Semitism in Britain, where the former mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, has just lost an election to a buffoonish but wily incumbent, Boris Johnson.

    Livingstone is Labor. He lost big. Among other reasons on offer from his hard-core fellow Laborites was is openly anti-Semitic campaign, in that he used with abandon crude stereotypes against “rich” British Jews.

    You can read all about it here and here.

  • douglasreed

    The above rant – for that is what it is – contains, nevertheless, a vitally important point: it is NOT A JEWISH lobby but an ISRAEL lobby too often supported by delusional Jewish communities, or sections thereof, who absorb the continuous propaganda emanating from Israeli diplomatic missions worldwide.

    Thinking Jews around the world, tens or maybe hundreds of thousands of them, are ashamed and sickened at the victims turned perpetrators as they expropriate increasing tracts of Arab land in an overt attempt to sabotage the establishment of a Palestinian state to accommodate the majority indigenous people of the region, in contempt of the will of the UN.

    This is an ISRAELI PROBLEM, not a Jewish one. The majority of Jews are not Israeli and have no wish to be so. The BBC needs to examine the facts.

  • Robert

    In response to Brett: The reason to STILL support Israel is that they are the only functioning democracy in the Middle East. Egypt is in the hands of the military so their democracy is not yet in place. When and if it is, it will be interesting to see if they honor their peace treaty with Israel.

    Israel, like the USA, is a country built on ideas and ideals. Sometimes, like us they have struggled to live up to those ideals, but they consistently strive to do so.

  • Earl of Sandwich

    > You can’t separate that quotation from the first sentence – “American presidents have long been criticized…”. I think WRM’s has misinterpreted her

    Hiding behind quotation marks is classic weasel behavior. If the Jews weren’t the target the beeb would never so approvingly quote and promote the words of bigots.

  • JJ

    Seems like we have some evidence of societal failure on the Via Meadia comments board. Time for a Tea Party.

  • http://theladiesmap.com Pedro Marquez

    Wow, after reading some of these comments, I’m more thankful than ever for Via Meadia’s attempts to spotlight and combat anti-Semitism and delusional thinking in general.

    Can anyone here make a rational argument as to why the U.S. should NOT support Israel? Militarily, Israel is the strong horse in the region. It has a stable government (err, maybe a little too stable if you’re rooting for Labor), a high birth rate, a booming economy, and growing relations with India and China. It’s a scientific and high-tech superpower which has recently discovered natural gas fields and shale oil deposits. The people love America and the port of Haifa is happy to receive American sailors.

    Of course there are lots of problems: corrupt pols, high prices, crazy settlers and of course the Haredi freeloaders. But let’s take a look next door at “critically important” Egypt: anarchic, largely illiterate, ultra-conservative, impossibly bureaucratic, dependent on food imports, female-genital-mutilating, anti-Western, anti-Christian, and most importantly, producing little of value. Sure, it was a great place to visit back in 2009 when I rode in, but even then the place seemed to be seething with hate and discontent and I don’t think it’s gotten better since then.

    So we should back away from Israel and watch as their best gear goes to the Chinese, in exchange for…what, exactly? A vague notion that maybe the throngs of angry young men will suddenly love America? Doesn’t sound very “realist” to me.

  • Tom Paine

    Israel is a very small, economically-successful, Liberal democracy in a sea of large, economically-backward, and politically-vicious autocracies.

    IMO the “democracy-autocracy” distinction justifies almost Any Level of American support (even without the above adjectives).

    And as long as this fact remains true, the common critiques of Israel simply crash ignominiously to the level of tiresome hair-splitting and deliberate ignorance – as well as disguised anti-Semitic bigotry in more cases than “polite” commenters or commentators will generally point out.

    WRM may or may not be right about the specific BBC instance he uses as a discussion hook; but he is undoubtedly right on a more general level – examples abound daily in the news.

    Arab rejectionism is the root problem in the Middle East. Until this is openly acknowledged, honestly discussed, and real solutions sought, there can be no peace – only a series of small wars (or one large bloodbath).

    And also, until then, most criticism of Israel will remain as it now is — a distraction for small minds, and nothing more.

  • Brett

    @Robert

    In response to Brett: The reason to STILL support Israel is that they are the only functioning democracy in the Middle East.

    Someone forgot to tell Turkey that they aren’t actually a democracy, despite all those elections.

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    Say, I finally actually listened to the program instead of just reading the headline. Finkelstein himself is the problem, not because he is an evil anti-Semite (though he might be) but because he insinuates that there is an easy just and reasonable way to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that the only reason it isn’t put into place is that the American president, under Israeli and/or American Jewish influence, doesn’t push for it.

    The idea that there is an easy, just and reasonable way to settle the conflict is A BIG LIE.

  • Swearjar

    The UK BBC, the Canadian CBC, the Australian ABC. All government funded, all prone to making and defending the theology of the modern secular left. Unfortunately, much of what passes as ‘progressive’ discourse on Israeli foreign policy or politics generally gets mighty close to anti-Semitism. And this is after the editors have (usually) softened it.

  • Peter

    Thank you, Mr. Mead, for your continued fight against anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism which in reality is another form of anti-Semitism. As a Jew, I cannot adequately convey my thanks to you, a non-Jew, for helping us Jews in this never-ending battle. Thank you!

  • Marcelo

    Bravo, Mr. Mead, for forcefully calling out the BBC and warning of the dangers of anti-semitism.

  • Haim

    The malignancy of the comments above and the ridiculous defense of the BBC (where are those “quotation marks”?) only prove that you have to be brave to defend Israel from the anti-Semites of the Left. WRM proves, yet again, that he’s a true thinker – and those who accuse him of being a Likudnik, should, well, learn better, if they can.

  • Anthony

    “Via Meadia’s fight against anti-Semetism isn’t just about solidarity with threatened or scapegoated Jews. It is also about the fight lucidity, liberalism and sound social and international policy…Anti-Semitism is not just a moral obscenity; it is the road to intellectual and political ruin.” Commendable WRM and very catholic (in its literate sense).

  • Carl

    I can only assume you did not listen to the whole introduction, the BBC was not saying this, it was quoting what some people say.

    This article is full of hypocrisy, 10 out of 10 for managing to bring Hitler and the holocaust into the discussion. That’s how debates are won right, whoever gets to genocide or nuclear war first wins.

    Do you really need the presenter to do air quotes to understand what she is saying?

    Please, watch the video, don’t show your ignorance by only reading the misleading article.

  • Carl

    “Livingstone is Labor. He lost big. ”

    Another poor fact checker, Livingston lost by 3%, they did a recount it was so close.

    How do you explain Livingstone being elected London Mayor before?

  • http://www.foarp.blogspot.com foarp

    Utter nonsense I’m afraid. Unlike US news coverage, which scarcely ever challenges interviewees, it is common on British television to ask tough questions and engage with tough issues – including the perception that the US government is too beholden to a pro-Israel lobby. Neither Finkelstein, nor the BBC, are anti-semitic, and to accuse them of such given their very long track-record of fairly even-handed reportage on this subject is simply ridiculous.

  • http://biased-bbc.com David Preiser

    Contrary to what Cunctator @ #6 says, and foarp above, the BBC has been found on more than one occasion to have been clearly biased against Israel on more than one occasion.

    The BBC’s Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, has been censured by the BBC Trust for reporting that it inaccurate and biased against Israel.

    Jeremy Bowen also said that the Muslim Brotherhood is “conservative, moderate, and non violent”, until someone called him on it and he deleted the “moderate”.

    The BBC has refused to report on what’s been happening to the Jews of Malmö, Sweden, yet the have done two reports worrying about anti-Muslim sentiment in that city. Do a search on the BBC website for it and see for yourselves.

    The BBC also publishes dishonest maps trying to rewrite the history of 1967 and why Israel was occupying the West Bank and Gaza. They remind their readers in every single report even remotely connected to them that the settlements “are illegal according to international law, although Israel disputes this.”

    Then there’s the Balen Report, which examined whether or not there is a consistent anti-Israel bias. The BBC spent £200,000 to suppress it, and it still has not been released to the public.

    Although the BBC may not be riddled with anti-Semites, there are many there who harbor anti-Jewish sentiment, whether they realize it or not. That’s the fear of the “Jewish/Israel Lobby” WMD is talking about. What the some people here fail to realize is that there’s a difference between legitimate criticism of Israel and demonization. The BBC’s reporting on Israel tends to demonize, making it appear that Israel is the real problem in the Middle East, and that a powerful Jewish/Israel Lobby makes it so, which in turn encourages anti-Jewish sentiment.

    The BBC makes every effort to dissuade the public from blaming all Muslims everywhere for Islamic terrorism or the violence and other awful behavior from a few, but then acts as if it’s okay for all Jews everywhere to bear the burden of Israel’s sins, real or imagined.

    Have a look at the Biased-BBC blog for more evidence.

  • Paul

    Haha not the old “anti-semetic” chestnut again.

    That has been proved to be a “Tool” created for and used by Israeli’s.

    The best thing to come out of Israeli controlled Palestine are the Israeli’s who support PALESTINE.

  • Kris

    Brett@21: “Someone forgot to tell Turkey that they aren’t actually a democracy”

    A democracy which has only escaped regular military coups when the government instituted a witch-hunt against its military and other opponents.

    Carl@29: Do you think your comment supports or rebuts the thesis that anti-Semitism is a problem in England?

    foarp@30: “the perception that the US government is too beholden to a pro-Israel lobby”

    A “pro-Israel” lobby? As I recall, there’s a crucial semantic difference between this and the original quote, no?

  • Snorri Godhi

    The quotation from Mearsheimer+Walt was enlightening for me: it can explain how some American Jews vociferously oppose the “Israel lobby” and yet are shocked, shocked! that people talk about a “Jewish lobby”.
    (Is Mearsheimer Jewish? is Walt?)

    However, Jewish opponents of the “Israel lobby” should study the political history of the Second Reich to see what happens when Jews and antisemites are found in the same political parties, and the Jews try to accommodate the antisemites.

  • Jules

    Earl of Sandwich: Hiding behind quotation marks is classic weasel behavior

    Haim:The malignancy of the comments above and the ridiculous defense of the BBC (where are those “quotation marks”?)

    Either English is not the first language of the above commenters or they are the Al Sharpton imitators trying to find bigotry where none exists for their own purposes.
    WRM is so emotional here that he has jumped to an erroneous conclusion that fits his narrative and not looked back. I’m referring to the Europeans as anti-semites narrative that has poisoned (and dumbed down) discourse at every American conservative website over the past decade.

    Earl of Sandwich: If the Jews weren’t the target the beeb would never so approvingly quote and promote the words of bigots.

    They often referenced the Irish lobby (when Clinton and Major had their falling out and earlier in the conflict) and the Cuban lobby (during Helms-Burton Act controversy in 1996). Numerous observers, such as Misha Glenny, also mentioned the Catholic and Croatian expat influence in Germany when Helmut Kohl rushed into recognizing Croatia and Slovenia before an agreement could be made with the former’s Serb minority or with NATO allies. There is nothing new here. Your desperation to be an offended victim is embarrassing.

  • Paul Graham

    Re: “quotation marks”. It is a simple rhetorical devise used in the program’s introduction. Rhetoric being a relatively high form of argument. If anything the BBC could be accused of arguing the opposite of that which it is accused, particularly when viewed in the context of the program that follows.

    Does Godwin’s Law not apply to this post: whoever mentions Hitler first looses the argument?

  • samuel welsh

    love ya isreal full support

  • Earl of Sandwich

    > They often referenced the Irish lobby (when Clinton and Major had their falling out and earlier in the conflict) and the Cuban lobby…

    Jules-apparently you doubt whether English is my first language but riddle me this: in what tongue does tone, tenor, and context not color the impact of phrases?

    To a robot perhaps Presidents being “in thrall to the Jewish lobby” is rhetorically equivalent to mentioning “Croat expat influence” on Germany.

    Which is the main point, why didn’t the Beeb find a calmer and more evenhanded lead to the issue? Perhaps they’re always this sensionalist but that hardly makes me think any better of the situation.

  • Georgian Mountain Lion

    I don’t think these two would have made a happy couple :-)

  • Gerald Bursey

    It’s no wonder Israel has banned Norman Finkelstein from entering Israel.

    I wouldn’t let him in my house either.

  • Alan Edelstein

    Philip Harold asserts that criticism of Israel in the U.S. is shutdown by unwarranted cries of anti-Semitism. Actually, there is a lot of criticism of Israel in the U.S. And whenever supporters of Israel vociferously and successfuly counter the critics, those critics accuse the supporters of beating them by using the charge of anti-Semitism or by using some other unfair or devious means. The critics are actually the ones who try to shut down debate with a charge that the supporters are chargin anti-Semitism. The fact is that a large majority of Americans have a favorable impression of Israel (latest polls at their highest ever, 61%) while the Palestinians poll very low (latest at 19%). This is due to the fact that Americans see Israel as an ally in the fight against terror, they admire a democracy amongst dictatorships, they like the fact that Israel provides freedom and equal rights for women and minorities, and they realize that it is the Palestinians that have repeatedly rejected compromise. Also, pro-Israel Americans, Jews and non-Jews alike, due a great job as citizen advocates, just like people in a democracy should. People like Mr. Harold and Jimmy Carter just cannot except the fact that a majority of Americans disagree with them, and that Congress and the President generally reflect the views of citizens and active citizen-advocates. They cannot lose fair and square. So, it is much easier to shout that they have been denied a fair hearing by charges of anti-Semitism, or that debate has been stifled, or that Jews control the media, etc. etc. The bottom line, Mr. Harold, is that most Americans recognize that Israel has not persecuted the Palestinians but, rather, have made efforts at compromise and at living together in peace. They also recognize that Jews have as much right to Jerusalem and the territories as anyone else but that, in hopes of peace, they have offered compromises. They recognize that the Palestinians time and time again have rejected compromise in favor of violence. They recognize that even the “right-wing” Netanyahu stopped “settlements” for nine months, supported a two-state solution, and has repeatedly called for negotiations without preconditions. They recognize that Pres. Abbas walked away from Prime Minister Olmert’s offer of all of the West Bank and a sharing of Jerusalem, and that he now won’t even sit down and negotiate without getting what he wants in advance. In short, they don’t agree with you.

  • Lavaux

    So long as Jews must rely on the reason and goodwill of people, political parties and nations, they’re in trouble. That’s their lot, and its the shortest one. Some chosen people, eh?

    Here’s what I don’t get. Lefties are knee-jerk underdog worshipers, but you can’t say that a lefty has never met a victim he didn’t like because he probably doesn’t like the Jews (unless he is one). Is that because the Palistinians are even bigger victims than the Jews, and the Jews are allegedly doing the victimizing? So what’s the principle, here? Last in time, first in victim rights? How is that logical?

    Honestly, who can be expected to truly understand the left?

  • Laura

    The reason they are so convinced that America is beholden to a Jewish lobby is because Britain and Europe are the ones beholden to the muslim/Arab lobby. This is a case of projection.

  • Craig B

    Finkelstein is a self-loathing Jew, a coward, and a plain out anti-Semite!

  • james wilson

    These peculiar European attitudes are not driven by anti-Semitism, but by ordinary cowardice. There are lots of Muslims with scary attidudes, and only a very few of those annoying Jews, who don’t even scare Palestinians.

  • http://www.debatesquared.webs.com Josh Newmark

    @Paul,

    You call anti-semitism the ‘old chestnut’ created for/by Israelis; what, exactly, would you therefore call the Holocaust, previous pogroms and other previous attacks on Jews, prejudices and the Blood Libel which all originated well before the State of Israel?

    Also to those who say that this clip is one single clip that doesn’t represent the BBC in general, if you read the Middle East news section of a more neutral news corporation and compare it to the selective material the BBC chooses to use and how it portrays it regularly, you would see that calling the BBC anti-semitic or at least overly anti-Israel is a very fair and legitimate claim.

  • Kris

    Alan@41 (and Luke@3): The problem of anti-anti-anti-Semitism. :-)

    Lavaux@42: “Some chosen people, eh?”

    As the good book says

  • http://onestate.info Roger Tucker

    This vicious diatribe is the typical knee-jerk reflex of a card carrying tribesman resorting to the “anti-semitism” canard. That the “Jewish Lobby” is a poor signifier is true (informed and serious people use either the term Israel Lobby or Zionist Lobby). And, yes, they do control American (and British, French, Canadian, Australian, etc., foreign policy vis-a-vis the Middle East. It is so obvious that one has to be totally delusional to deny it.

  • Jeff

    To #11 Philip Harold,

    Mr. Harold, it’s your shtick that’s getting old. All you are doing is parroting the official new line in the old routine. There’s nothing brave about the “souls” you romanticize, just a self-congratulatory smugness.
    You would do well to spend some time seriously considering what WRM says and less time jerking your knee to the rhythm of the variant form of trutherism you currently embrace.
    And just a thought, maybe Israelis know what’s in they’re best interest even better than an “expert” such as yourself.

  • Der Bik

    Walter Russell Read says:

    “Jew hatred is more disempowering and self-defeating than most other kinds of hate because it involves not only negative emotions about a group of people but a deeply false set of ideas about how the world works. …”

    The deal is that, contrary to what anti-Semites believe, the differences between Jew and non-Jew are almost entirely notional or perceived.

    WHY did the Nazis make Jews wear big yellow stars if it were so easy to identify Jews in the first place?

    The reason why anti-Semitism is so dangerous is that once a society starts tolerating hatred and bigotry directed at perceived differences, it quickly becomes easy, and logical, to tolerate hatred and bigotry directed at obvious differences, and from there it’s only a brief sprint to violent chaos.

  • Kris

    Well, that seems like a clear enough choice: a “card casrrying tribesman” such as WRM or Roger Tucker.

  • Jean-Yves

    Could you please explain or even write an article about why America has been backing the 21st century colonization that is happening right now in this area?
    You do not compare Palestinians or Arabs to Hitler, and a lot of people will probably be grateful for that, but to whom should they compare Isreali policy?

  • Kris

    Jean-Yves@52, could you please read more than one post before making asinine requests of our host? Or are you, shocking as it may seem, merely interested in lobbing a few firebombs and then speeding away?

  • Dubi Yarden

    Monsieur Mead, I am disappointed that you let Waltsheimer off the hook so easily. Ascribing insidious powers to the “Israel lobby” (or to the equally malicious “Zionist lobby” that Roger Tucker claims “informed and serious people” use) meets the working definition of Antisemitism according to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which comprises 56 nations and 1 billion people.

  • AzA

    I get it. The only reason anybody hates Jews is because of the existence of Israel.

    So what was the excuse for the last 2000 years?

  • ErisGuy

    The BBC isn’t some blog. Your comment is far too charitable. For the presenter to read this anti-Semitic nonsense on air means that at least five people willingly and enthusiastically approved it. The BBC: same as it ever was.

  • http://www.foarp.blogspot.com foarp

    “You call anti-semitism the ‘old chestnut’ created for/by Israelis; what, exactly, would you therefore call the Holocaust”

    Why must American commenters brining up responsibility for the holocaust (responsibility which apparently does not append to the United States) when discusing supposedly anti-semitic (but usually merely critical of Israeli policy) opinion in the United Kingdom, the state that fought the Nazis right from the start of the war and without first being attacked?

    My grandfather was in the RAF, my grandmother a nurse who volunteered to go to Belsen after it was liberated. In what sense do I or the rest of the people in the United Kingdom deserve to be accused of an anti-semitism supposedly inherent in the continent in which our country is found?

    Was it London where, in living memory, whole areas closed their doors to Jewish residence? No, it was New York.

    Was it the UK where leading legal scholars, again, in living memory, declared that they did not want to open their profession to “little jew boys”? No, it was the United States.

    Can the United States claim to be the state in which people from jewish backgrounds have been elected to every meaningful office of state, including the head of government? No, but the UK can.

    So why exactly is it correct to speak of “European antisemitism” in the context of the United Kingdom again? Inquiring minds would like to know.

    Sure, the UK has it’s small share of anti-semites, but their impact on main-stream, popular discussion is effectively nil. Jumping on a characterization of someone else’s opinion in a BBC interview and accusing the speaker of anti-semitism is a transparent attempt to close down debate critical of Israel and its influence on US policy.

  • Murrkin

    What’s really infuriating about this nonsense is the obstinate refusal to report the reason for American support for Israel:

    the vast majority of us are nauseated by the means the Palestinian militant organizations have chosen to use to advance their cause.

    Come on, BBC cowards: you know this. Say it to your audience.

  • Leon Poddebsky

    The non-Jewish American anti-Zionist lobby has had far too much influence on US policy re the Middle East, thus enabling the resurgence of jihadism which endangers US interests. Still, if America wants to clutch a viper….

  • http://www.motorgood.com rolly

    this clip is one single clip that doesn’t represent the BBC in general

  • SamAxel

    There is a day coming in the not distant future when Israels strings will be cut and we will watch them burn.

  • Kris

    SamAxel@61: “Israels strings will be cut and we will watch them burn.”

    Now all we need is to come up with an appropriate name for that glorious event.

  • werewife

    OMG. OMFG.

    Philip Harold, Roger Tucker, SamAxel, etc.: If these are the kind of people who follow a measured, reasoned, closely-argued kind of blog like Via Meadia, what the hell else is out there, and just what would they like to see happen to me, my family, and my community? Yes, after a while, it does seem personal.

  • Ralph Adamo

    There will always be Communazis who will try to attack Israel. This BBC show lies, and of course, they invite a very stupid, undeducated feckless fop like Finkelstein who knows nothing, and is just a lame pro-Islamist propagandist. The smart Jews know that a strong Israel is essential to the survival of Jews, and smart Christians are supporting Israel as well.

  • http://www.motorgood.com rolly

    Don’t be ridiculous. American Presidents have been criticized for being too close to Israe

  • Douglas Hainline

    I have never read anything by Norman Finklestein, other than short extracts of his writings, nor have I ever heard him speak, although I have read a lot of criticisms of him. So I watched the BBC video with interest.

    I was surprised by how reasonable he actually is … not at all as I had expected him to be, as portrayed by his critics. If, like me, you have never heard him voice his views directly, you should definitely watch this video.

    I think his main weakness is this: he does not seem to understand that however wrong-headed the settlement policy is, however repulsive aggressive Israeli nationalism is, the unalterable fact is that Israel is surrounded by hundreds of millions of people who would like to see it utterly destroyed, and that just two generations ago, a similar project came near to success. It’s this reality that makes the Israeli/Arab conflict different from dozens of similar squalid ethnic struggles over territory.

    If you don’t acknowledge this, your criticisms of Israeli policy will not be taken seriously. That said, the Israeli attempt to hold on to the Occupied Territories is suicidal.

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