Adrian Hamilton’s dreadful article in the Independent’s 23rd April edition is worth noting, even by that newspaper’s standards.
The article is an attack on the walkout at the UN Geneva anti-racism conference by Western ambassadors during Iranian President Ahmedinejad’s speech. Hamilton quotes the UK ambassador saying that Ahmedinejad’s first mention of Israel was his cue to exit. Hamilton then asks:
“But what basically was our representative trying to say here? That any mention of the word Israel is barred from international discussions? That the mere mention of it is enough to have the Western governments combine to still it?”
Hamilton is aware of Ahmedinejad’s track record, but thinks the President wasn’t so bad in front of the UN. After all, he even remembered to say “Zionist” instead of “Jew”:
“In fact, Ahmadinejad’s speech was not anti-Semitic, not in the strict sense of the word. Nowhere in his speech did he mention his oft-quoted suggestion that Israel be expunged from the map of the world. At no point did he mention the word “Jews”, only “Zionists”, and then specifically in an Israeli context. Nor did he repeat his infamous Holocaust denials, although he did reportedly refer to it slightingly as “ambiguous” in its evidence”.
Next, Hamilton contextualises Ahmedinejad’s narrative (including “Zionist take-over of Western politics”) as standard stuff in that part of the world:
“Instead, he launched the time-honoured Middle Eastern accusation that Israel was an alien country imposed on the local population by the West, out of its own guilt for the genocide; that it was supported by a Zionist take-over of Western politics and that it pursued racist policies towards the Palestinians.”
Then, Hamilton has his cake and eats it – if there is a “Zionist world conspiracy”, it is a rubbish one; although Western academics are now agreeing with the Muslim world that the American branch of the conspiracy (suddenly recast as “pro-Israel lobby”) is apparently doing brilliantly:
“Now you may find these calls offensive or far-fetched (if there is a Zionist world conspiracy, it is making a singularly bad job of it) but it is pretty much the standard view in the Muslim world. Western support of Israel is seen as a conspiracy, and it is not just prejudice. There are now books by Western academics arguing that the pro-Israeli lobby wields an influence in the US out of all proportion to its numbers. If the Western walkout in Geneva did nothing else, it rather proved the point.”
You can read the whole article on-line, where the sub-heading is the same Livingstone Formulation that the Independent’s headline team plucked out to put in bold letters in the print edition. Namely:
“What are we trying to say? That any mention of Israel is now barred?”
We are sadly used to the Independent and others alleging that anti-Israel “criticism” is branded as antisemitic – but “any mention is now barred?” goes much, much further.
The shift from mere “criticism” to “any mention” is bad enough, but in the context of Hamilton’s article it implies that the supposed antisemitism accusation conspiracy has now ensnared the highest levels of Western diplomacy. Yes, there is still a question mark hanging at the end of the sentence, so it remains more of a barbed rhetorical question rather than a statement of fact. Nevertheless, what is more likely to remain with Independent readers: the narrative, or the question mark?
Mark Gardner, Communications Director, CST