Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Where the Elite Meet to Bleat Damaging Lies About Israel: The London Review of Books

Not being a member of the metropolitan (or, for that matter, non-metropolitan) left-liberal chattering classes, my taste in newspapers and journals excludes, most emphatically, The Guardian,  The Independent, and the London Review of Books. I’m more at home with the London Daily Telegraph – but, boy, do I mourn the demise of its previous proprietorship, when regular columnists included the splendidly realistic and pro-Israel Barbara Amiel and Mark Steyn – The Australian (arguably Australia’s most consistently pro-Israel newspaper, and home to the admirable foreign affairs specialist Greg Sheridan), and Standpoint magazine.

Barbara Amiel, in December 2001, revealed that at a private dinner party at the London home she shared with her husband, Conrad Black (Lord Black of Coldharbour), the French ambassador, Daniel Bernard, has blamed the insecure state of the world on what he termed “that shitty little country, Israel”.  Indeed, far from stoking sympathy for Israel given all of its horrendous experiences at the hands in terrorists, 9/11 has produced a similar reaction to Bernard’s among the chattering classes of the Western world.

At upper-class and upper-middle-class dinner parties all over London, we’re told, Israel is excoriated. I’ve experienced this myself, when I was a guest at a Pall Mall gentleman’s club (I wrote about this in July in my blogpost entitled “Watt Amann!”),  and a ferociously anti-Zionist seemingly haute bourgeois "as-a-Jew" who used to post Israeli-demonising nonsense with frenzied regularity on the Jewish Chronicle blogs has drawn our attention to it often enough with such jibes as “At middle class dinner parties these days no one has a good word to say about this Israel” and “Israel has become a dirty word, something you just don't mention at dinner parties”.

I reckon this elite crowd - who, after all, need to keep abreast of the latest received wisdom of the “intelligentsia” in order to maintain face when the dinner party conversations turn from the trite and the flippant and the gossipy to the deadly serious – have the LRB on their drawing room coffee tables and imbibe its Israelphobia along with their dry sherries and their gin-and-tonics. And what (save Al Grauniad and Al Beeb) serves as fodder for bitchery about Israel better than this periodical, which allows its namedroppers to give the impression that by quoting such a source they have a big brain too? (Unfortunately, however, I know that even some Jews who describe themselves as Zionists, albeit of the J-Street sort,  have been seduced by the LRB, as well.)

The LRB began publication in 1979.  Its editor for the past 17 years has been Mary-Kay Wilmers, an affluent Anglo-American socialite, now in her seventies, whose personal fortune, it’s said, is crucial to keeping the magazine afloat. Ms Wilmers (pictured) is Jewish. Yet, as Daniel Johnson (son of the distinguished journalist and author Paul Johnson, who wrote that much-praised A History of The Jews) put it in Standpoint magazine earlier this year, concerning Ms Wilmers :

‘On Israel ... she finds condemnation is all too necessary, having been converted by Edward Said. A list of her contributors reads like a roll-call of the anti-Zionist, anti-American Left, from Tariq Ali to Slavoj Zizek, from Eric Hobsbawm to Tom Paulin. Virtually the only Tory to have written regularly for the LRB was the late Sir Ian Gilmour, who hated Israel and Margaret Thatcher in equal measure. In an interview with Anne McElvoy, Wilmers was at least frank about her prejudice: "I'm unambiguously hostile to Israel because it's a mendacious state."
It was in the LRB that "The Israel Lobby" appeared in 2006. This article, by the American political scientists Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, has unleashed a flood of conspiracy theories. Thanks to them, the notion of an all-powerful network of Zionist agents, neocon think-tanks and Jewish plutocrats manipulating US foreign policy has now become received wisdom in left-wing circles on both sides of the Atlantic.
This overtly or covertly anti-Semitic propaganda is now parroted in senior common rooms, where the LRB is required reading for the academically ambitious. Its influence permeates British culture through the arts and the media. The editor who takes credit for the LRB's success must also take responsibility for its bigotry.’
“The London Review of Books, the house journal of a certain kind of intellectual, has long indulged in a particularly nasty form of anti-Israel propaganda  –  paid for by us, the taxpayer (it receives a £20,000 subsidy from the Arts Council)”, noted Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard on 26 January 2009 of the then current issue of LRB:
“[It] is even worse than I expected. The main piece is headlined: Israel's lies
And then, to put that into 'context', it's followed by commentary from Tariq Ali, David Bromwich, Alastair Crooke, Conor Gearty, Eric Hobsbawm, R.W. Johnson, Rashid Khalidi, Yitzhak Laor, Yonatan Mendel, John Mearsheimer, Ilan Pappe, Gabriel Piterberg, Jacqueline Rose, Eliot Weinberger and Michael Wood.
Every single piece - every one of the fifteeen commentaries  –  is pure Israel-bashing. Nowhere is there even the most basic attempt to explain Israel's position. Pure poison - poison paid for by you and me.”
Just how poisonous has been revealed in a thorough ansd systematic investigation of issues of the LRB over the past ten years, undertaken by Just Journalism and published on its website under the heading “London Review of Books - Ten years of anti-Israel prejudice". As summarised by Just Journalism itself, these are the main findings:

 A Freedom of Information request revealed that since its inception the LRB has received over £767,000 from Arts Council England, funded by the public purse;

 Between 2000 and 2010, over £188,000 was received by the LRB specifically for the purpose of paying contributing writers. In this period 92 articles on Israel-Palestine were produced by contributors;

 More than one third (36%) of articles were written by Jewish Israelis and more than half (53%) of all articles were written by people known to be Jewish. On only one occasion was a mainstream Jewish and Israeli perspective on the conflict showcased by this (or any) contingent;

 The LRB consistently portrayed Israel as a bloodthirsty and genocidal regime out of all proportion to reality, while sympathetic portraits abounded of groups designated as terrorist organisations by the British government such as Hamas and Hezbollah;

 While the Palestinian narrative was fully represented, Israel’s narrative on its legitimate security concerns, Arab rejectionism and terrorism was near absent.

“Many contributions are no more than pro-Arab propaganda”, comments Israeli historian Professor Benny Morris.  “On the face of things, it would appear that sending taxpayers’ pounds their way is misguided if not downright hostile toward Israel – which is not British government policy.”

Says Michael Weiss, executive director of Just Journalism:
“This comprehensive report reveals a stunning one-sidedness in the London Review of Books on a hugely complex issue. There is no effort to showcase a range of views on Israel-Palestine or to take Israel’s legitimate security and political concerns seriously. But more revealing is how truly fringe the LRB’s conventional wisdom is on this issue. Hezbollah rockets raining down on Israeli towns are depicted as symbols of ‘consciousness-raising’ about the injustice of Israeli poverty. Overt comparisons are made between Israeli military policy and the Nazi Final Solution. Hamas is seen as a big-tent party of spiritual progressivism and not as a totalitarian, anti-Semitic terrorist organisation.
The fact that taxpayers’ money is being used to pay for contributors to write these unremittingly hostile articles ought to prompt some sort of public debate about whether, particularly in today’s economic climate, this funding should continue.”
Read the entire report here: prejudice/
As the ever-pungent Melanie Phillips observes on her blogpost, entitled “The London Review of Bigotry”
“Until now, Wilmers and the LRB have never been held to account. All credit to Just Journalism for understanding that the peddlers of hatre towards Israel – including the Jewish peddlers of such calumnies -- have to be publicly exposed and shamed; and their discourse of obsessive and bigoted moral and intellectual inversion, both symbol and cause of the west’s suicidal pattern of attacking its allies while sucking up to its enemies, must be called by its proper name.”


  1. Excellent, informative post ~ I discovered your blog via a Facebook link. Thanks. Am just amused that dinner parties should be so important :-)

  2. Another very valuable blog. Herbert S.

  3. God to "see" you again, Herbert!