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Monday 16th November 2009
I'm Not Antisemitic, But...


This evening, Channel 4's Dispatches featured Peter Oborne's 'Inside Britain's Israel Lobby'.  At the end of the programme, Mr. Oborne sought to make it very clear that he was not suggesting there existed some kind of conspiracy, but merely that the 'pro-Israel lobby' had a lot of influence among politicians.  He may not realise it, but that's the oldest antisemitic trick in the book.

The Community Security Trust (CST) blog explains how, by referring to a number of different organisations as part of a single block - the 'pro-Israel lobby' - tonight's Dispatches was unwittingly utilising well known antisemitic ideas.  Referring to an opinion piece co-authored by Mr. Oborne today, where both the Labour and Conservative Friends of Israel are singled out for their supposed political influence, the CST writes:

Note the way that the "pro-Israel lobby" is referred to as a single body that works through apparently separate organisations in different, opposing political parties. There is no room here for Tories who happen to support Israel, and Labour-ites who happen to support Israel (or for that matter Lib Dems who happen to support Israel and are members of Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel). You would not know from this article that CFI and LFI are entirely separate organisations, with separate governance structures, staff, funding and all the rest. There is an assumption - with no evidence offered - that these separate organisations are merely parts of a single whole, moving and acting as one. Genuine antisemites often represent the Jewish or Zionist conspiracy as an octopus, or a spider sat in its web. This is the image that is echoed by Dispatches' wording here.

There has been a gradual shift in the terms of the debate on antisemitism and we are now seeing more popular (and often ignorant or unwitting) use of previously unacceptable antisemitic themes. Tonight's Dispatches is just the latest example of this.

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Lynne T
November 19th, 2009
5:11 PM
Why would anyone take Oborne's disclaimer re: the existence of a conspiracy as anything more than the figleaf that it is. For those who believe that Jews exert disproportionate influence on governments, it's irrelevant whether or not there are any formal links between the various lobbying organizations or not. The problem is not that the finding there is a strong, well-funded Jewish lobby operating in the few countries that, by virtue of limited dependency on middle east oil and finances, can be effectively lobbied on Israel's behalf. It's the lack of context: the Palestinians don't require the same lobbying because not only are there numerous NGOs, some even based in Israel and staffed by Israelis, who concern themselves with the rights of Palestinians, we have a world body -- the UN -- whose activities are heavily influenced by a very large voting block that continually brings resolutions against Israel and votes as a block against Israel at every opportunity. And, moreover, members of this same anti-Israel block generally have extremely poor human rights records, and, have in many cases, actively worked to subvert any effort for a just settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Alexander Melea...
November 17th, 2009
12:11 PM
Jessica, I take your point. However, I did not intend to provide any in depth analysis on the flaws of the Dispatches programme - that is for experts on this issue like the CST. The only point I wanted to make was that the programme was indicative of a growing trend in this country - where people who are not themselves antisemites have begun using traditionally antisemitic themes without even realising it, and that is a real problem. I disagree that using the term 'anitsemitism' is in any way akin to crying wolf, and to suggest as much trivialises a very important issue - just look at the CST's statistics on the rise of antisemitism in this country. Of course, like the term 'Islamophobia', there are some who seek to shut down debate by throwing around that type of accusation, but I dont think I can be accused of that here.

Jessica Duchen
November 17th, 2009
11:11 AM
Alexander, I saw this programme with much interest and I was afraid you'd write exactly what you just wrote. Rather than shouting "anti-Semitism" - which adds to the ever-growing and very real danger of crying wolf - why not ask some more precise and illuminating questions about it? I felt it was a deeply flawed hour that proved very little and did not engage fully with the really dangerous issues. For instance, the matter of the Conservative party's alliance with the far-right group in the European Parliament was not plumbed even halfway deep enough. Essentially the programme suggested the following: Kaminski, with a reputation for anti-Semitic actions in the past, is now pro-Israel; the Tories are allegedly incentivised to be pro-Israel; that is therefore why they joined forces with Kaminski - ? And that was that - on to the next topic. Does this really hold water? Personally I don't think there is an excuse on earth that can justify any mainstream British political party making friends with the eastern-European far right and I don't think the situation should be reduced to such a facile argument. It's much more serious than that, especially if the Conservatives do win the next election... Quite apart from that, stifling dissent by bullying is never a good idea, and if that is really what the pro-Israel lobby is doing, they will only end up harming themselves and their own cause in the eyes of those who might once have been their supporters.

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About Focus on Islamism

Focus on Islamism is a blog dedicated to analysing and exposing the modern ideological phenomenon known as Islamism.

Shiraz Maher is a writer and broadcaster.

Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens is a PhD student at King's College, London.  He has contributed to various online and printed publications including, The Daily Telegraph, Lebanon's Daily Star, Standpoint and NOWLebanon. 

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