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December 08, 2006

Johann Hari warns against the resurgence of anti-Semitism - or the new definition of irony

Posted by Jeremy Brier

Can the same person write an article entitled The Spiteful Resurgence of Anti-Semitism and also one entitled Ethnic Cleansing Returns to Israel's Agenda. Jeremy Brier finds that Johann Hari can.

Alanis Morissette didn't quite understand irony, but Johann Hari certainly does. In August 2006, he penned an article in the Independent entitled "The Spiteful Resurgence of Anti-Semitism". Of the recent upsurge of "raw Jew-hatred", Hari writes in earnest:

It is those of us who are very critical of Israel who must guard most vehemently against this impostor. Sometimes it emerges in small, unconscious ways.
Yes, Johann. Well spotted. And thus, it is terribly important for one to be on the lookout for prejudices, lies, libels and incitement, especially when they are presented as serious fact. As was precisely exemplified in an article about three months later entitled "Ethnic Cleansing Returns to Israel's Agenda" by, er, Johann Hari writing in the Independent.

In his vituperative tirade against Israel, the "on guard" Hari writes:

Anybody who studies the history with open eyes can now see that ethnic cleansing of Palestine's indigenous population was Israel's original sin, a prerequisite for the state to come into existence. Today the Israeli people feel their existence is threatened once more, so they are returning in their minds - via Lieberman - to those birth crimes in the search for solutions.
Now let us consider for a moment, very coolly, whether this was objective and sensible political analysis ("legitimate criticism of Israel") or whether it was in fact a monstrous libel against the Jewish State and the Jewish People, conveyed in highly emotive language ("Jew-hatred" emerging "in small, unconscious ways").

First, as a simple matter of fact, Hari's statement is untrue. In 1947-8, Palestinian Arabs joined invading Arab states and unleashed a war to destroy Israel and the 1947 UN Partition Resolution. Those aggressors consequently lost (sorry, Johann) and thus any "displacement" was a direct response to Arab/Palestinian violence and the desire of those dastardly Jews to not be slaughtered in their new homeland (having just been slaughtered in just about every other land in Europe). Ethnic cleansing? Au contraire, Mr Hari. The inception of Israel as a secure state was the saving of a much-persecuted ethnic minority on the verge of international extinction.

Even if you do not accept my factual account, presenting Palestinian displacement as an "original sin" and a "birth crime" which is evident to anyone with "open eyes" is the most egregiously emotive way to frame something that at the very least is hotly contestable. It is the language of the Biblical blood libel; it reeks of hate.

Now I freely admit that I am not a historian and I have my own biases; so does Johann Hari. He's not a clear-sighted receptacle of "fact" either. In fact, his columns have been hilariously well-documented in Private Eye for being glaringly ignorant at times and his newspaper employer is so committed to Israel's destruction that it is hard to see for what else it exists. Hari's failure to mention the existential threat to the nascent State, the context of the Holocaust, or the original violation of the "first two-state solution" by Arab powers is surely in no way responsible journalism and instead amounts to a wicked and offensive attack on Jews, blaming them for defending their own lives and religion at their most persecuted moment in history.

Now, Johann, I wonder why there's a "spiteful resurgence of anti-Semitism" with articles like that being published?

Jeremy Brier is a barrister, a former winner of the Debating World Championships and an active member of the Conservative Party and Conservative Friends of Israel.

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