More on that anti-semitic Dispatches show....
Here's a piece from the anti-Israel Guardian...
Apparently, according to Channel 4's Dispatches programme on Monday night, there are some wealthy Jews out there bent on influencing British government policy on Israel. What a shocking finding. I wonder what they will uncover next? Lobbyists trying to influence government health policy, perhaps? Pressure groups seeking to change government policy on the war in Iraq? Business leaders trying to alter government thinking on economic policy?
Aside from the shoddy research and the barely concealed antisemitic undertones (the idea of a shady, morally repugnant "cabal" of Jews seeking to control the world is a classic antisemitic myth), it was this lack of context that was most disturbing about the programme. As David Cesarani argued in his comment on the programme, there are numerous lobbying groups working with government and the media, trying to influence policy and opinion on a wide range of issues. Some of these even try to represent the Palestinian cause.
There are also numerous Jewish leaders and philanthropists who support and invest in Palestinian Israeli causes, including the single largest pro-Israel charity in the UK and – according to the Jewish Chronicle – the single most influential philanthropist in the British Jewish community. Jewish leaders differ on how best to support Israel, and the opinions range from unquestioning support to intense criticism. But Channel 4 failed to include such contextual framing in its hour-long documentary, presumably because that might have undermined its highly spurious argument.
But then, context is always the problem. There was no effort throughout the programme to contextualise Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. There was no mention of the Israeli government's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, and the fact that, subsequently, Hamas had used the territory to launch countless randomly targeted missile attacks on Israeli towns and villages. In its analysis of the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, it failed to mention the thousands of missiles Hezbollah had assembled with Iranian and Syrian support on Israel's northern border, which it used with great effect to terrorise the Israeli population.
Perhaps most important, it failed to mention in any detail why some Jewish leaders may feel compelled to support Israel. Leaving aside the politics of the region, the notion that Israel is the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people, or that Israel is the only nation state in the world in which Judaism is mainstream, Jewish culture is the norm and the Hebrew language is widely spoken and celebrated, were all ignored.
But it is, apparently, much easier to trot out the old antisemitic myth. After all, the public deserves to know what these nasty, rich Jews are up to. And what could possibly be wrong in uncovering the truth? There cannot conceivably be a connection between the way Israel and Jews are presented in the media and antisemitism on the streets of Britain.
Or so Alan Rusbridger would have us believe. In the documentary, he maintained that he found it "difficult to believe" that any journalistic coverage of events in Israel could result in acts of violence against Jews on the streets of Britain.
Well, allow me to present myself as exhibit A. In April 2002, at the height of the Palestinian intifada, media reports began circulating that a massacre had been committed by the Israel Defence Force in Jenin, in the West Bank. Rumours circulated that hundreds of Palestinians had been killed. The BBC suggested 150. Saeb Erekat, interviewed on CNN, claimed 500. Yasser Abed Rabbo intimated 900. The overarching impression was that the IDF had committed a horrific atrocity.
On the following Saturday, I was walking to synagogue, wearing my kippah (skull cap) in the north London suburb of Finchley. On the way, I was punched in the face by a young man. It was an entirely unprovoked assault. We were simply crossing paths when he delivered a sudden, forceful, right hook. Taken aback, my first response was to ask why he had done it. "That's what happens to Jews," he responded, "when they behave like that."
That is the only time in my life that I have been a victim of an antisemitic assault. It is possible, I suppose, that it had nothing to do with the events in Jenin, but I find that very difficult to believe. My attacker saw me as a legitimate target directly linked to the so-called "massacre".
In the final analysis, it was established that no such massacre took place in Jenin. The United Nations report into the fighting concluded that, in fact, 52 Palestinians were killed, at least half of whom were militants; 23 Israeli soldiers were also killed. Of course, any loss of life – on either side of the conflict – is tragic, and serious mistakes have been made by both Palestinian and Israeli leaders over the years.
But the way in which the conflict is reported and analysed has a direct bearing on levels of antisemitism. And, thanks to Channel 4 and Dispatches, I wouldn't be surprised to see those levels rise yet again.