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Saturday, July 04, 2009

Melanie Phillips' Bandwagon of Hate

Last week, I opened my Jewish Chronicle to discover Melanie Phillips in true form, spouting what seemed at best to be misrepresentations of the truth, and, at worst, complete falsehoods. Here is my response in the form of a letter to the editor that the JC did not publish (note: I found virtually every point in Phillips' piece disagreeable, but here I have concentrated on the factually incorrect, rather than engaging with her 'analysis' - if you can call it that):

In her recent JC piece, Obama’s deadly hand revealed, Melanie Phillips is guilty of making unsubstantiated, factually incorrect and, at times, borderline-racist comments and assertions. She states that “Among American Jews, a degree of buyer’s remorse has been detected recently”, yet she provides no evidence to support this claim – perhaps because it has little basis in reality.

Phillips states that Obama has “torn up the Road Map which requires the Palestinians to dismantle their infrastructure of terror”, which calls into question whether she has actually read the President’s “Cairo shocker of a speech”. If she had, she would have noted his assertion that “the obligations that the parties have agreed to under the Road Map are clear … Palestinians must abandon violence … it is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on the bus” – it is difficult to imagine a more vocal or powerful call for an end to Palestinian terror.

Obama stated that “the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied” – hardly a crowd pleaser in Cairo, and he went on to strongly condemn anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiment (“threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong”, hardly “fight[ing] against any condemnation of the theologically based Jew-hatred pouring out of the Islamic world” as Phillips maintains). There is nothing factually incorrect in the above statement about the Jewish people’s “tragic history” – surely the enforced exile and loss of independence would come under this, alongside the Inquisition, Pogroms and the Shoah.

Phillips states that Obama was “sanitising Islam through false claims about its historic achievements and selective and misleading quotation from the Koran”. This implies that Islam is not ‘sanitary’, or even is evil – a rather odd mirroring of the “Jew-hatred” to which Phillips refers, but with “Muslim” replacing “Jew”. She seems to be denying “civilisation’s debt to Islam”, forgetting that while Europe was in the ‘Dark Ages’ the works of Plato and Aristotle were being taught in Muslim universities, and that Maimonides himself lived all his life in the Muslim world. Phillips seems to let her paranoia get ahead of her in saying that Obama’s use of the word “revealed” is an “acknowledgement of divine revelation … the language of the believer”, apparently implying, though not proving that “Obama is really a Muslim”, rather than being a simple example of cultural awareness.

Phillips states that Obama is “pro-Islamist”, yet there is a distinction between showing respect for Islam (the religion of over a billion people) and supporting a particular, violent political philosophy. In fact, Obama stated that America will “relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security” – hardly encouraging for the likes of al Qaeda.

That Phillips has written such an ill-informed piece, using talking points cribbed from the fringes of the right-wing blogosphere, is not surprising. That the JC has published this is, however, disappointing – it is the extremist opinions of the likes of Phillips that are the greatest impediment to peace and the safeguarding of a secure State of Israel.


Blogger Kier said...

A late comment :) I'm listening to Melanie Phillips on BBC R4's Moral Maze (03/03/10) and am so incensed by her attitude, views and all round unpleasant personality, that I thought I'd have a look around at what she really stands for, I've been aware of her work for a few years, and despite being very much in favour of free speech, including extremists of whatever flavour (give 'em enough rope etc..) I do wonder whether a significant amount of what she writes does not merit more scrutiny from the point of view of the hate crime legislation. Sounds harsh, but she definitely adds to the paranoia and fear that has pervaded the UK since 2003.

11:08 am


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