Tuesday, November 17, 2009

An Israel lobby? So what if there is one?

Last night's Dispatches, about the so-called Israel lobby, was repulsive on several different levels, not least because it heavily promoted the antisemitic stereotype of Jews with money manipulating the political system.

The main problem for me, however, was that it turned perfectly normal political activity into something sinister.

Lobbying is part and parcel of a healthy political system. There are thousands of different groups pushing for some agenda, or interest, or another. Israel supporters asking politicians to understand Israel's motivations better are no different to any other group pressing for their pet cause.

Any claims of 'Zionists' gaining power through contributions to political parties make no sense whatsoever unless compariative figures are given for pro-Arab contributions - and contributions by other lobby groups (such as unions). Any talk of Zionist 'influence' makes no sense without a proper discussion of the influence of pro-Palestinian groups etc - a far more important group in electoral terms.

When the BBC and Guardian complained about the unbearable pressure put upon them by Israel supporters, did Dispatches ask what kind of pressure was put upon them by Palestinian supporters? Different media organisations routinely complain that the reason reporting on the Middle East is so difficult is that they are attacked equally - by both sides.

In short, where was the context?

The sad truth is that Israel's supporters - a motley collection of groups and individuals with different purposes, politics and operations, not by any means one coordinated effort, as Dispatches would have you believe - have very little power or influence in this political system, and even less in the media. I wish they had more.

For effective deconstructions of the programme, check out Jonathan Hoffman on CiFwatch; Melanie Phillips; Robin Shepherd; and Tom Gross.

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