If you thought the Guardian was bad on Israel, check out the FT

It's the combination of flat out stupidity and visceral hostility that really jumps out at you

by Yorker on 24 November 2012 06:01

One media outlet that gets off far too lightly for its outrageous and irrational hostility against the State of Israel is the Financial Times.

For a paper that -- somewhat absurdly given its utter failure to predict the financial crisis; as well as its myopia on the EU -- takes itself tremendously seriously, what really jumps out at you when the discussion turns to Israel is the combination of flat out stupidity and visceral hostility.

Enter Philip Stephens, a veteran FT columnist who, on the back of the recent conflict with Hamas, delivered a rant of his own this Thursday.

When I talk about flat out stupidity and visceral hostility, I really do mean it. It is not meant as a gratuitous insult.

Stephens' aim in the piece is to draw some sort of parallel between Benjamin Netanyahu and Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, "a fellow reactionary", he says. (His point, in a nutshell, is that they're both warmongers.)

He argues that, "The parallel with Iran is anyway an uncomfortable one" by which he seems to mean that it's uncomfortable in the sense that it's a truth some might not like to hear. In reality, the parallel is not so much "uncomfortable" as "cretinous".

Comparing the Israeli leader with a Holocaust denier may have anti-Semitic undertones, but I do not accuse Stephens of deliberate anti-Semitism. He is so desperate to impugn the character of the Israeli leader that he lashes out wildly, weirdly and, beyond demonisation, without a clear sense of purpose.

For example, consider this, which encapsulates in a single paragraph the mentality we are dealing with:

"[Netanyahu] lives in the shadow of a war hero brother, who perished during the Israeli rescue of hostages at Entebbe, and a father who believed Arabs would never make peace with Jews. As long as Hamas can be cast as terrorists, Mr Netanyahu can refuse to talk peace. The unspoken delusion is that Israel’s security can be forever underwritten by military victories."

At every level, what is this guy talking about? Let's start with the stuff about living under the "shadow of a war hero brother". Netanyahu is one of the most successful Israeli politicians of modern times. I doubt that he's living in anyone's shadow, but then again I'm not interested in playing the amateur psychologist.

Has Stephens conducted in depth interviews with Netanyahu about his family background and his relationship with his brother? Is he qualified to make such an assessment? And what's that bit about his dad? What, so, like most objective observers, Netanyahu's father could see that the Arabs have a deep seated problem with Israel? And that's somehow significant?

This is just weird.

And then we get to the "substance". "As long as Hamas can be cast as terrorists, Mr. Netanyahu can refuse to talk peace". No, Philip. It's not that the Israeli premier needs to "cast" Hamas as terrorists, they are terrorists, as the Obama administration, and even the European Union recognise.

And then, to round things off, we get this: "The unspoken delusion is that Israel’s security can be forever underwritten by military victories." (In passing, let me just say that I love the man's use of the word "delusion"... directed at someone else!)

Again, no Philip. Netanyahu shows absolutely no sign of believing that "Israel's security can be forever underwritten by military victories". In fact, his posture on the military front is almost entirely defensive. It wasn't Netanyahu who unilaterally launched barrage after barrage of rockets against Gaza. He responded to unprovoked rocket attacks from Hamas.

One could argue that he favours military action against Iran's nuclear programme, but he's not the only one and, in any case, he would launch such an attack in the manner of preventative defence.

Like all Israeli leaders he adopts a broad range of strategies to secure his country, from diplomacy through public relations to deterrence. You can disagree with Benjamin Netanyahu on many things, but casting him as a warmonger does not fit with the available evidence.

But who cares about evidence when your mission is purely about demonisation?

There's all the standard idiocy in the piece about "Bantustan"s and "apartheid", as well as a total failure to address the consistent problem of Palestinian rejectionism not to mention the rather inconvenient truth that only two Arab countries have ever made a peace agreement with Israel.

The worry for Netanyahu and all other intelligent observers (ie. not Philip Stephens) is that one of those two countries, Egypt, may renege on its agreement and adopt a much more aggressive stance. I'm sure if that happens the FT will manage to roll out someone or other to say it's all Israel's fault. Really, I'm not being ironic.

Much of the rest is the usual anti-Israel rant. In a pointed remark against Netanyahu, he concludes by saying:

"If there is a single lesson from the tumultuous events of the past few years, it is that the era of the armed reactionary is coming to a close."

And if there's a single lesson from your piece Philip Stephens it is that the era of the flat-headed, reflexively anti-Israeli British columnist is still very much with us.

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