The Economist and its "Auschwitz Complex"

Does the Economist really think the sun never sets on the Israeli "empire"?

Daniel Schwammenthal
On 14 March 2012 16:43

The Economist’s 19th century founder, Scottish hat maker James Wilson, once quipped "that reason is given to us to sit in judgment over the dictates of our feelings." Sadly, when it comes to discussing the Jewish state, some of Wilson’s heirs tend to drop their thinking hats and are all feelings—but not of the warm and fuzzy kind.

Take the recent online article, originally published under the headline “Auschwitz Complex,” discussing Israel, Iran and America. Apart from portraying Israel as an imperialistic, war-mongering, mentally unstable society, the Jewish state allegedly also attempts to drag the U.S. into “increasingly delusional and dangerous projects whose disastrous results seem only to legitimate their paranoid outlook.” That’s what passes for “authoritative insight and opinion” at the esteemed Economist these days.

The article’s author, identified only as M.S., starts off by claiming that Israel has less control over its own destiny than Portugal or Britain because, get this, “unlike those countries, Israel refuses to give up its empire.” It surely must be news to Israelis that their country, about the size of Wales and controlling parts of a neighboring territory a quarter of its own small size, qualifies as an “empire,” just like the one on which the sun famously never set.

But it’s not just the dimensions that make this comparison nonsensical. Unlike Portuguese and British colonialists, Israel did not venture out half way across the world to amass far-flung civilizations to maximize its power. Instead, it conquered the West Bank, just a half-hour drive from Tel Aviv, in a defensive war to secure its mere survival. It immediately offered to return the territories in exchange for peace (which the Arabs rebuffed), even though unlike, say, some subarctic island off the coast of South America, the West Bank and Gaza are neighboring territories with serious security implications for Israel and deep historical connections for the Jewish people.

The Economist also chose to ignore that Israel already left Gaza in 2005 despite warnings, which were sadly proven correct as we have seen again this week, that Palestinian terrorists would turn the strip into a launching pad for rocket attacks against Israeli civilians.

For the Economist, Israel is “immobilized,” unwilling to make peace. “For over a decade, the tone of Israeli politics has been a mix of panic, despair, hysteria and resignation.” The fact is that this is exactly the period when Israeli prime ministers have made not one but three far-reaching offers to end the conflict. The Palestinians ignored or outright rejected these peace plans.

But facts matter little in the Economist’s revisionist account, where only one side is apparently responsible for the lack of peace and, supposedly, “no-one bears greater responsibility for the trap Israel finds itself in today than Mr. Netanyahu.” That’s the same Mr. Netanyahu, by the way, who during his previous term signed the Wye River Memorandum in 1998, transferring control of significant parts of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority.

So why is the conflict still going on? “Violent clashes and provocations erupted whenever the peace process seemed on the verge of concrete steps forward,” the Economist explains. And, as Journalism 101 courses explain, the passive voice erupts whenever the journalist is trying to obscure the truth. Violence did not spontaneously or anonymously break out, as the article suggests.

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