Alex Brummer

Israel map row marks height of hypocrisy

By Alex Brummer, May 28, 2009

When it comes to the Middle East, nothing is more important than maps. When you visit the Israeli Foreign Ministry for a briefing on peace initiatives, officials unfurl large maps showing every possible outcome, including charts with neatly drawn corridors linking the West Bank to Gaza.

At the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Jerusalem, a presentation shows the proliferation of security barriers across the region, which it regards as an affront to peace.

As much of an affront is the fact that many of them are unmanned but still counted.

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When supermarkets are superpowers

By Alex Brummer, May 21, 2009

As a sector, Britain’s grocers are having a good recession. While other firms, including the food suppliers, have been shedding jobs, the supermarket chains Tesco, J Sainsbury, Wm Morrison, Asda and Waitrose have been adding them. And although Marks & Spencer has had to reshape “Simply Food”, jettisoning some of the stores it bought from Somerfield as a job lot, its executive chairman Sir Stuart Rose believes that its food offering has turned the corner, and that same-store sales — the critical measure for retailers — will soon be expanding again.

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Hastings’s case against Israel is flawed

By Alex Brummer, May 14, 2009

Max Hastings is among Britain’s most distinguished and honoured journalists and an exemplary military historian. His years as editor of the London Evening Standard look like a golden age, given what has followed.

He is now a prolific commentator writing regularly in my own paper, the Daily Mail, as well as the Guardian. Bridging the gap between these two very different titles might be regarded as an achievement in itself.

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Darling has betrayed entrepreneurs

By Alex Brummer, May 7, 2009

Alistair Darling’s April budget marked the end of New Labour. It was the party’s final divorce from the City.

Several of Britain’s most successful entrepreneurs, including Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP and David Levin of United Business Media, have already upped sticks and moved their enterprises to Ireland because of efforts by HM Revenue and Customs to capture a bigger share of foreign earnings. Others are lining up to go.

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Trusting the BBC just a little bit more

By Alex Brummer, April 30, 2009

There has been a great deal of triumphalism on the web and in print at the criticism levelled at BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen by the guardians of impartiality on the BBC Trust. Certainly, it is encouraging that the BBC Trust is taking its regulatory role more seriously.

In the pre-Hutton era, BBC governors saw their role as defending management and editorial from outside interference. Now it has shown it deals with complaints carefully and is determined to maintain journalistic standards.

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The 1930s again: Jews are blamed for the crisis

By Alex Brummer, April 23, 2009

The credit crunch, financial crisis and ensuing global recession have provided an opportunity for the rebirth of some unfortunate antisemitic stereotypes. Jews have played a prominent role in the current crisis, and not just as perpetrators but as problem solvers and victims too.

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Syria could yet be key to Middle East peace

By Alex Brummer, April 16, 2009

Expectations that President Obama would lift the Middle East peace process to the top of his international agenda have been short lived. Not surprisingly, it has been the global recession together with resetting the Nato agenda which has been dominant in the headlines.

This does not mean, however, that a great deal of preparatory work and thinking is not taking place.

A lengthy New Yorker article by veteran reporter Seymour Hersh records the belief in Washington that the route to an overall Middle East settlement lies through Syria.

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Hedge funds aren’t evil. They could save us all

By Alex Brummer, April 7, 2009

As the credit crunch descended, the so-called “shadow banking” system, which includes hedge funds and private equity, attracted more than its fair share of opprobrium. In Germany, these groups, a symbol of free-wheeling Anglo-Saxon capitalism, were labelled “locusts”, and here in Britain the government launched a tax clampdown on private equity just as the financial system was seizing up.

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Gaza, NGOs and the dynamics of untruth

By Alex Brummer, April 2, 2009

Just as it looked as if the worst of the press coverage of Israel’s Gaza campaign was over and the media had moved on, along comes a fresh charge sheet. Israel, according to the reports, engaged in all manner of war crimes, using Palestinian children as human shields, targeting medics and hospitals, and making “reckless” use of white phosphorous.

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TV reality is harsh, Grade must tune in fast

By Alex Brummer, March 26, 2009

Michael Grade almost certainly missed his vocation. Listening to him at fundraising ORT events, he appears a natural for America’s “Borscht Belt” comedians who, before the days of cheap flights to Florida, toured the summer resorts in the Catskills. The ITV executive chairman is in need of every bit of quick wit he has at present.

Having risen to the peak of the establishment as chairman of the BBC in the wake of the clear-out after the Hutton report, he wrongfooted the media world in November 2006 when he abandoned his post to move to ITV.

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Israel can’t take US support for granted

By Alex Brummer, March 12, 2009

The great taboo of Washington politics is to criticise Israel or the support of successive US administrations for the Jewish state. All seemed well on this front in the Barack Obama camp with the choice of former New York senator Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and ex-IDF volunteer Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff.

But forming a new US administration is not like changing government in Britain, when only a handful of special advisers are switched. In the US, the changes go deep into every aspect of policymaking and occasionally a controversial figure creeps in.

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The man who steered the Pru to safety

By Alex Brummer, March 5, 2009

There is not much time for corporate small talk when you accompany Mark Tucker to watch Chelsea. The Prudential chief executive weighs up every move with the eye of a seasoned professional. Weaknesses and strengths are assessed coolly without the usual invective of the football fan.

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Netanyahu brings falling interest rates

By Alex Brummer, February 26, 2009

After the deluge of Gaza media coverage and the lengthy profiles of Avigdor Lieberman, the choice of Benjamin Netanhayu as Prime Minister was barely recorded in the UK press. Such coverage as there has been has largely been confined to the foreign pages — and comment has been sparse.

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Sir Victor’s ‘safe’ Lloyds TSB is not so safe any more

By Alex Brummer, February 18, 2009

While researching my book on the credit crunch early last year, I met Lloyds TSB chairman Sir Victor Blank in a spacious office on London’s Gresham Street.

Blank, in his naturally laconic manner, was pleased that the bank he led had managed to avoid the worst of the toxic debt — based around US sub-prime mortgages — which had caused the credit markets to freeze over and led to the run on Northern Rock.

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Public systematically misled on Gaza

By Alex Brummer, February 12, 2009

Israel has paid a heavy price for the media’s rush to judge events in recent years. In 2002, it was deemed responsible for a “massacre” in Jenin, which a subsequent investigation found to be false. During the 2006 Second Lebanon War, it was alleged that Israel had caused large loss of life at Qana, a report which turned out to be greatly exaggerated.

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City trusts Mick Davis much less now

By Alex Brummer, February 5, 2009

On a crystal clear winter’s day in Trafalgar Square last month, Mick Davis, dressed in a leather jacket and open-necked blue shirt, was the star turn as he battled for Israel’s cause amid the demonisation which erupted around Israel’s Gaza operation. As chairman of UJIA, South African-born “Mick the Miner”, as he has been dubbed by the financial press, is a passionate supporter of Israel’s cause.

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Beeb stand opens new front in media war

By Alex Brummer, January 29, 2009

So who would have thought it? The public debate over Israel’s conduct of the Gaza war, with allegations of war crimes and all the rest, has been displaced by the dispute over the BBC’s refusal to broadcast a humanitarian appeal. The Beeb’s rediscovery of its charter obligation to “impartiality” will have come as a pleasant surprise to its critics in Anglo-Jewry. But even the Corporation’s harshest critics would have to acknowledge that its coverage of Gaza was more balanced than that of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war.

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Not the end of the retail world

By Alex Brummer, January 22, 2009

The new landscape of Britain’s high streets is becoming all too familiar.

Closing down sales, bill-littered doormats, boarded-up shops and other ugly manifestations of recession are in evidence as well-known chains from Woollies and MFI to other newer and less familiar names like Zavvi (an outgrowth of Virgin), children’s wear firm Adams and Officers Club have gone bust.

Even Marks & Spencer, once regarded as a rock of stability amid the organic mass on the high street, is closing 25 of its specialist Simply Food stores.

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Variety of views make a welcome change

By Alex Brummer, January 15, 2009

Much of the UK press has been strangely vacillating in its comment on Gaza. Columns friendly to Israel’s approach on the opinion pages are followed by hostile, sometimes factually incomplete material in other parts of the paper — or vice-versa. In striving for balance, the press appears to be at war with itself.

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Gaza war brings out Indy’s true colours

By Alex Brummer, January 8, 2009

There is something about Middle East conflagrations which causes newspapers and their experts to revert to type. So once again, despite my recent optimism on these pages that a new, more Israel-friendly Independent might emerge under the editorship of Roger Alton, there has been no trace of it: amid all the negative media coverage of Israel’s war against Hamas, the Indy wins the prize for the least balanced.

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