Obsession with Israel makes us all ignorant

By Robin Shepherd, March 3, 2011
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Libya’s Saif al Gaddafi

Libya’s Saif al Gaddafi

One of the most noteworthy consequences of the current wave of protests and revolutions across the Arab world is that when you click on the Middle East section of the BBC website something extraordinary happens: you are no longer bombarded, headline by headline, subsection by subsection with a once familar word: "Israel".

I swear it. It's Wednesday March 2. It's midday. And I'm looking at the BBC website. Where's my fix?

Over at the Guardian it's even worse. I'm on Comment is Free. I've typed "Israel" into the search facility. Here's the response: "No matches found"! This is the Guardian for goodness' sake: a paper that, according to its own figures, printed 258 comment pieces on Israel last year, and more than 1,000 overall – about three a day. As the estimable media monitoring organisation Just Journalism pointed out, this makes for some "interesting" comparisons with conflict zones accounting for hundreds of thousands of casualties such as Congo (124 items overall) and Sudan (121).

But there is much more to this than a gentle dig at the liberal-left media establishment's obsession with the Jewish state. Ask yourself this: prior to the current crisis, how many Britons had the remotest notion that Libya was a clan-based society? That has emerged as a central element of any serious analysis of how things might transpire in the country, and, now, it features in the reporting widely. So why has such basic information taken so many of us by surprise? The obsession with Israel is not just making us sick – societally, morally, civilisationally – it is also making us stupid. People watching and reading the major media outlets can tell you the names of suburbs of east Jerusalem. Ask them to name the capital city of Jordan, and most will struggle.

Beheadings take place every Friday afternoon in Riyadh...

And it's not just making us stupid, it's corrupting us as well. Witness the London School of Economics which, it has just been revealed, has been taking hundreds of thousands of pounds from a charity chaired by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's son. Conservative MP Rob Halfon rightly described it as "blood money. Our universities should not be in hock to tyranny," The Times quoted him as saying.

Of course not. But they are. Why? Because the bright lights of publicity suddenly go dark over the Middle East when Jews cannot be held responsible for misbehaviour.

Want a sneak preview of what's coming next? I'll say it in a whisper. Did you know that Saudi Arabia funds university faculties throughout the Western world? And did you know they chop people's heads off every Friday afternoon? Hold the front page…

    Last updated: 3:00pm, March 3 2011