You may be your worst enemy

Miliband let Israel off lightly. Attacking him is deeply counter-productive

By Stephen Pollard, April 1, 2010

There's a no doubt apocryphal story about Herbert Morrison, the former deputy prime minister - now probably better remembered for being Peter Mandelson's grandfather. Ernie Bevin is supposed to have overheard a private conversation in which someone said that "the trouble with Herbert is that he is his own worst enemy". To which Bevin responded with a loud: "Not while I'm alive, he ain't."

The complicated, ever-shifting, inter-mingling nuances between our community, the government and Israel remind me of that conversation.

Take the reaction to the decision by the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, to expel an Israeli diplomat over the cloning of UK passports.

I was at a function on the day of the decision, at which there were a number of machers. To a man and woman, they told me the same thing: that this was a terrible day for Jews because it revealed the deep-seated anti-Israel bias of the government and of Mr Miliband. Two people told me that the decision was based on antisemitism, pure and simple.

I wonder how otherwise rational people can think like this. What else, pray, is our government - any government - supposed to do when it discovers that a foreign government - a close ally, yes, but a foreign government nonetheless - has been copying passports of its citizens? Smile and say "thank you"? Hand over more passports for copying?

The BBC is not antisemitic. It simply exhibits a bias against Israel

Mr Miliband would have been within his rights to send the Israeli Ambassador back to Jerusalem that very night. But he didn't. He chose the mildest possible rebuke - the expulsion of an unnamed diplomat, with sharp criticism but no more.

Far from being an anti-Israeli act, Mr Miliband's behaviour was the probably the single most pro-Israeli action he has taken since becoming Foreign Secretary; the least he could get away with doing without losing all face.

And yet do we recognise this for what it was? No. We tell ourselves that this is yet another example of the anti-Israel bias of our government.

It's the "own worst enemy" syndrome. Don't we have enough real enemies?

I am not saying that Mr Miliband is, as a rule, pro-Israeli - although his indefatigable attempts to see off Jack Straw's hostility to a law change over universal jurisdiction are deserving of great praise.

I'm not even saying that the government doesn't deserve a good kicking for some its attitudes towards Israel. I'm simply saying that the decision to expel an Israeli diplomat is not remotely evidence in support of that.

Something similar happens when it comes to our reaction to the anti-Israel bias of the BBC.

As it happens, I've spent much of my journalistic life attacking the BBC's coverage of Israel and terrorism. So I'm fully alive to the problem. But I sometimes wonder if we are our own worst enemies when it comes to dealing with the issue.

A while ago, I spoke at a shul meeting on the BBC. A question from the audience asked what I thought we could do about its antisemitic coverage of Israel. Another referred to the BBC as an antisemitic organisation.

I pointed out that we were veering wildly away from the facts: that it was absurd to think of the BBC as an antisemitic organisation.

The Nazi party was an antisemitic organisation. Similarly, the BNP (despite its attempts to say otherwise). The BBC is simply a broadcaster which exhibits a bias against Israel.

And that bias isn't based on antisemitism but the fact that most of its journalists come from the liberal, left chattering classes. The default position of that milieu is now to see Israel as the guilty party. So such views colour its news reports. That's the real problem.

I was yelled at for saying this, and told that I was just as bad for refusing to recognise the truth about the BBC.

And it made me think of the Morrison story, in reverse.

Last updated: 4:35pm, June 3 2010


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