July 9, 2008
The Zionist rabble-rouser
Launched in June and printed on expensive paper, the new British monthly, Standpoint, is in the tradition of Encounter, the high-toned Anglo-American magazine of the last century that turned out to have been secretly bankrolled by the CIA. Like Encounter, Standpoint is a journal of conservative opinion, though whereas Encounter waged the war of ideas against Soviet communism, Standpoint is part of the intellectual “war on terror,” the struggle to save Western civilization from Islamism.
It follows that the magazine has not been slow to declare its support for Israel. Among the contributors to the second issue is the hard-line British neoconservative Zionist, Melanie Phillips. Written with the stridency which has long been her trademark, Phillips’ Standpoint article “Faking a Killing” (a synopsis of which has since been published by the Jewish Chronicle) maintains that the much-reproduced image of the September 2000 killing of the 12-year-old Palestinian boy, Muhammad Al-Durra, apparently by an Israeli marksman, at Gaza’s Netzarim Junction, told an outrageous lie.
Phillips describes how the footage of the boy screaming in terror before being killed became uniquely incendiary, portraying the Israelis as having gunned down a child in cold blood, even as he cowered for his life. Yet, she goes on, the murderous hatred and acts of Muslim violence inspired by the killing now transpire to have been based on a fabrication, one that amounted to a blood libel in the tradition of anti-Semitic defamation stretching back to the Middle Ages. The proof is that Charles Enderlin, the Jerusalem correspondent of France 2, the French TV station that first broadcast the film of the killing, has been judged by a Paris court to have perpetrated a fraud.
That Enderlin has been so judged came about because he and France 2 brought a libel action against the French media watchdog, Philippe Karsenty, for alleging that the “killing” was pure fiction and that Al-Durra was not dead at all. The original Paris court ruling in favor of the TV station was overturned this May, with the appeal court ruling that Karsenty had been vindicated in the light of evidence that the footage did not correspond to Enderlin’s commentary and that the testimony of his Palestinian cameraman could not be trusted.
According to Phillips, the Israeli physicist, Nahum Shahaf, who presided over the Israeli Army’s investigation of the incident, has demonstrated conclusively that Al-Durra’s lifeless body was brought to Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital before 1 p.m. — two hours before the incident at Netzarim took place. It is, she insists, no longer in doubt that the “whole thing was staged, an elaborate fabrication designed to blacken Israel’s name and incite the Arab and Muslim mobs to mass murder.”
For Phillips, the implications of this “scandal” are “enormous,” far transcending a disgraced French journalist and his TV station. In her mind it raises the century-old specter of the Dreyfus affair, the notorious episode of the French Army Capt. Alfred Dreyfus who, in a France rife with anti-Semitism, was convicted of espionage on the basis of trumped-up evidence. Phillips suggests that the Al-Durra libel is the new Dreyfus affair — with Israel now occupying the role of the victimized Jewish soldier. It is not just France, though, but much of the Western media which is impelling Phillips to cry j’accuse. She stresses that while Shahaf’s findings made their way into a handful of newspapers and television documentaries and onto the Internet, they were otherwise ignored by Western journalists. And this, she charges, represents merely the most egregious recent example of animosity toward Israel on the part of Western journalists driven by a mixture of anti-Semitism and professional self-preservation and all too ready to rely on Arab sources with Islamist agendas.
Such is Phillips’ Zionist zeal that she even indicts Israel itself for feebly acquiescing in the Al-Durra “fiction” in the belief that to challenge a story that had attained iconic global status would be counter-productive. She believes Israel’s political establishment handed the Palestinians and their sympathizers a major propaganda coup. It is almost as if she is attacking Israel for being a self-hating Jewish state.
If what happened at Nazarim Junction on Sept. 30, 2000, is a large knot to untie, it is nevertheless right that anomalies or outright falsehoods in the received version of the story be exposed. But Phillips’ clear implication that many of the reports of the brutalization of Palestinians at the hands of Israel are fictions designed to manipulate Western public opinion and rekindle Western anti-Semitism is itself a flagrant piece of rabble-rousing.
Fulminating about the emergence of “Pallywood,” a “grotesque new genre of terrortainment” that deliberately presents “theatrical fictions” as authentic Israeli atrocities, Phillips presents herself as wholly innocent of propagandist intent. Yet the endless writings on the Palestine-Israel conflict of this professed champion of the truth betray not the least sense that she has ever taken the trouble to acquaint herself with the daily agony of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. On the other hand, she does not hesitate to assert the historic right of the Jews to lay claim to Palestine as the “only people” entitled to regard it as their “national home.”
Quick to accuse others of propagating one-sided, manipulative views, Phillips, in short, is blind to the fact that many are bound to see her in identical terms, as a Jewish commentator so soaked in Zionist righteousness that she has no sympathy to spare for Zionism’s victims, nor any concern to understand the Palestinian point of view. On the most charitable interpretation, her journalism is rooted in denial, a pathological refusal to acknowledge that Israel could conceivably be guilty of committing gross violations of human rights. A Muslim who wrote in the same spirit of sectarian fury would be regarded as a rabid extremist and denied access to the mainstream Western media.
From the embattled stance she is apt to adopt, anybody would think that Melanie Phillips, too, is starved of opportunities to state her case. Yet Standpoint is just one of many media outlets where her extreme views routinely find favor. And what could be more extreme — at a time when the collective punishment being endured by the men, women and children of Gaza is evoking worldwide horror — than to publish an article which not only diverts attention from Israel’s thuggish behavior but insinuates that more often than not stories of barbarous Israeli treatment of Palestinians are cynical Palestinian PR exercises?
Whether Standpoint is going to provide a platform for perspectives on the Middle East conflict other than those of Melanie Phillips remains to be seen, but it seems a fair indication of its basic sympathies that the magazine is endorsing the outlook of a monomaniacal Zionist partisan. Indeed, for all its espousal, in an opening editorial, of the “noblest ideals to which humanity has aspired,” Standpoint appears to be a true heir to Encounter, a journal less committed to truth than ideology.