The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Sunday, October 19, 2003

The latest addition to the Likud Lie Machine is - Mahathir Mohamad?

There is saying (going back at least to World War 1) in the British Army: Old soldier, old cunt. And they don't come any older than Malaysian prime minister and balanced anti-colonialist [1] Mahathir Mohamad.

If Ariel Sharon was working him with his foot, he could not have produced a better slug of told you propaganda in support of the Likud Big Lie.

Think the Marlboro Man: the image of purity, freedom and health of that guy on his horse on his own out in the West someplace, fulfilling his own Manifest Destiny, the embodiment of the American Dream. And he's shilling a product which is foul, crippling and often fatal. And - quite evidently - the image has worked pretty well all these years.

The aim: to get people to accept emotionally something they know to be factually false [2]. (Changing belief in the truth of a thing is, I think, a paradoxically trickier proposition for any sort of persuader: once the audience starts thinking about fundamentals, they might conclude that the thing you're promoting is a phoney!)

In the case of the Likud Tendency, that thing-that-people-know-is-false is that antisemitism is on the march in the nice, comfortably off, democratic West, in particular, in Western Europe.

It is patently untrue. It is certainly true that significant minorities of Europeans will admit to harbouring antisemitic views: a Forward piece from November 2002 quotes from a survey by the Anti Defamation League (clearly not evidence given against interest!) on attitudes in five European countries. Those admitting to strong antisemitic views made up 26% of the total sample: 34% of Spanish respondents, 7% of Dutch. (In the Land of the Free, of course, things could not be more different. Could they? Another ADL poll quoted shows 17% of Americans with strong antisemitic views. Is the difference between 17% and 26% statistically significant at the 95% level? Have the geniuses at the ADL checked? Answers on a postcard...)

But these minority antisemitic views in Western Europe are not reflected in political action. No pogroms, no numerus clausus - none of those things which antisemitism has historically caused in many parts of Europe. The current situation of Jews in Western Europe is clearly different from that of, say, Central European Jews in the inter-war period [3]. Yet Central European Jews in the inter-war period, I would suspect, is the paradigm which antisemitism involuntarily conjures up in most people's minds - something of which those alleging rampant antisemitism in Western Europe today are not unaware.

(For a taste of the counter-productively hysterical end of the propaganda on the wave of European antisemitism, try the testimony (PDF) of one Dr Shimon Samuels [4] in May 2002 on Antisemitism in Western Europe 2001-2002 (including a Focus on France and Belgium). If the Likud boys were usually as crude as this, they'd have no audience left.

In talking about antisemitic attacks on property and persons, he quotes statistics in the hundreds, but in a tone fit for hundreds of thousands. He tries by dint of enthusiasm alone to string together a chain of causation between the all too predictable circus at the World Conference Against Racism [5], the antisemitic attacks - often the acts of Moslem extremists for whom Europeans have little affection, and the policy of leading EU countries over Palestine...oops!

A flavour:
The post-11 September US-led "war against terror" has merged the traditional anti-Americanism of the left, and the nationalism of the extreme right with an immediate sympathy for Al-Qa'eda among young socially marginalised Moslems in France [6].
In June 2001, French Foreign Minister, Hubert Vedrine, told a Wiesenthal Centre delegation that assaults on Jewish institutions were "only acts of suburban hooliganism." He rejected any aggravating implications of French policy on the Middle East conflict being interpreted as consistently pro-Arab.
If Durban was "Mein-Kampf," then 9/ 11 was "Kristalnacht"...

He was, I suspect, speaking to the converted. And - could the fact he focuses on Belgium have anything to do with the then current case against Ariel Sharon in the Belgian courts for his part in the Sabra and Chatila massacres?)

At the less crude end of the scale, one got the allegations a couple of years ago - notably from Barbara Amiel, wife of Canadian press baron and publisher of the Jerusalem Post, Conrad Black - of a recrudescence in parlour antisemitism in Britain. Liberal consciences were dutifully examined whether opposition to the Likud forward policy towards the Palestinians had somehow crossed the line (eg Observer February 17 2002)- though, as I recall, the anti-Likud = antisemitic equation was generally dismissed without too much angsting even by the most bleeding of pinkish hearts.

(It seems that some British propagandists have given up on antisemitism as an allegation to wring withers on the liberal left, and invented a new concept: Judeophobia - a May 23 piece in the, relatively restrained, Jewish Chronicle by Paul Iganski and Barry Kosmin says
The core characteristic of élite Judeophobia involves a campaign of vilification against Israel as a state. Criticism of Israeli policy per se is not Judeophobia, of course. However, Israel is singled out for opprobrium while gross violations of human and civil rights elsewhere go relatively unnoticed, as they are not subject to the same degree of scrutiny.

The approach has the merit (for the propagandists) of focusing attention where they want it: on policy towards Israel. But an appeal to double standards is somewhat lacking in credibility, particularly in the year when WMD threat from one nation brought invasion, whilst that from other nations - not so much!)

In the US, the ground is much less stony: on the one hand, one has the neocon alliance - embodying a genuine common interest - between sections of American Jewry and an element of the American Right, which has established a clear pole of attraction in the US media universe; on the other, the continuing contribution of Jews to the Democratic Party and the liberal end of the media. And then there's Pat Buchanan.

US Middle East policy has, for a good while, been tilted towards Israel: no need for moral blackmail to persuade Bush to support the broad thrust of Likud strategy. Stigmatising the Europeans as anti-semites for their lack of enthusiasm for that strategy merely chimes in with the more general surrender monkey propaganda from much the same range of sources: useful feelgood stuff, for solidifying the base, not allowing weaker brethren to go wobbly at new settlement construction or (not so) targeted killings.

What I've not seen is any quantitative research on self-censorship on Jewish/Israeli-related matters in the US media [7]. But there is, it seems to me, clear evidence of intent on behalf of individuals and organisations - acting independently [8] - to encourage a climate conducive to self-censorship.

Some will push the envelope - by accident or design. For instance, one got that most delicious Catch-22 on allegations of Jewish influence from Rep James Moran [9]: allege that influence, over, says, USG Middle East policy, is exercised by a handful of Jews, and you're accused of pandering to the stereotype of the Jewish conspiracy; suggest such an influence is being exercised by American Jewry as a whole, and that's the opposite stereotype of Jewish uniformity of opinion, which polling evidence would usually disprove. From which the lesson to be drawn by the prudential pol or hack is: wiser not to refer to Jewish influence at all!

And, more recently, there was the Dick Locher cartoon in the Chicago Tribune - a taste of the reaction - and the Gregg Easterbrook Kill Bill review (October 17) furore.

But these are (in the proper sense of the expression) exceptions that prove the rule - test it, show where the boundaries lie - and provide a lesson pour encourager les autres.

Mahathir's intervention deserves to be read in full. In fact, a great deal of is a harangue against the ummah for having declined in the last half-millennium or so from a political and intellectual force to a bunch of Sad Sacks who are living in the past and who couldn't knock the skin off a rice-pudding. Though he doesn't use the word, it reads to me like a call for the ummah to get in shape for a jihad against the infidel - but without much confidence that anything much will happen very soon.

Trouble is, the inflammatory parts of the speech have moved the surrender monkeys to join with Uncle Sam in condemnation. (That, at least, is what this AP piece (October 17) says:
Les chefs d'Etat et de gouvernement de l'Union européenne, réunis à Bruxelles pour un conseil européen, ont affirmé vendredi qu'ils déploraient "les remarques fausses et antisémites" du Premier ministre malaisien Mahathir Mohamad.

The New York Post - from whose rectum emerged the A Curse of Their Own? editorial proclaiming a Red Sox victory on Friday - says Chief Weasel Jacques Chirac blocked any EU statement. Who do we believe? I'm stumped...)

But Mahatir does suggest the glimmer of a problem for the propagandists: if fellow Moslem leaders carry on ranting at Mahathir's decibellage, and keep forcing such transatlantic unity, the essential Likud propaganda message, Europe = Antisemitism, will soon be convincing no one...

  1. A chip on both shoulders...

  2. There's another thesis to be written on the process whereby the harmfulness of cigarettes became an acquis of the popular imagination. There was James I's famous tirade, of course; and the work of Richard Doll and Austin Bradford Hill in the middle of the 20th century that gave the belief statistical credibility - try this retrospective for details of the critical 1962 Royal College of Physicians study and its impact.

  3. This PDF piece is on the history of Jews in Poland. There is some stuff online that looks as if it might bear investigation.

    But beware oversimplification! The most casual research on the situation in Poland, for instance, suggests an unexpected pattern: for instance, according to an article , Quatre hypothèses comparatives France-Pologne sur la violence antisémite au XXe siècle, in Cultures et conflits:

    L'antisémitisme en Pologne au XXe siècle ne fut pas seulement préjugé, idéologie, ou instrument de mobilisation. Il prit également la forme d'une pratique sanglante, bien que le singulier soit ici trompeur : le déferlement de la violence antisémite (physique) entre 1918 et 1947 n'obéit probablement pas à une logique unique. Ses enjeux et ses détonateurs sont variables suivant les situations. Reste que son ampleur est sans précédent dans l'histoire de la Pologne puisque celle ci n'a jamais connu les massacres médiévaux qui, en Occident, se chiffrent par milliers de morts entre la première croisade (XIe) et la grande peste (XIVe).
    And a little knowledge might lead one to suppose that things got worse for Polish Jewry under dictator General Josef Pilsudski; from what I've seen, the evidence is all the other way: for instance in an article from Binghamton University, Poles and Jews: The Quest For Self-Determination 1919-1934, one reads that
    The majority of Jews preferred a Pilsudski-dominated government because, unlike Endejca [this guy is nowhere else online, or in dead-tree material currently to hand], it did not promote overt antisemitism. Indeed, their situation improved under the cabinet of Pilsudski's appointee Kazimierz Bartel. He had a friendlier attitude toward all minorities. During his government, steps were taken to revive Jewish trade, prohibit university quotas at the universities, and rescind the still extant Russian anti- Jewish laws.
    Perhaps this relative philo-semitism is why Pilsudski (bio) is an ex-dictator with his own US fan club (kinda), the Józef Pilsudski Institute of America. Or could it be that the Democratic Party covets those Polish-American votes just a wee bit too much for its Jewish contingent to cut up rough...

  4. To the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe - whatever that is.

  5. You would not have understood from the rant that the EU insisted on removing the Zionism is racism section of the Durban declaration - Guardian September 5 2001.

  6. A piece in Le Monde diplomatique (English translation) Self-censorship in France from November 2002 says the opposite:
    Bruno Mégret, who left Le Pen's Front National to form his own far-right group, declared: "Faced with Islamic fundamentalism, we share the anxieties of the representative bodies of French Jewry."
  7. There are perhaps methodological difficulties which might explain a lack of such research. It also could be that I haven't looked hard enough!

  8. They don't need a conspiracy - any more than Yankee fans do to be heading to the Bronx for game time.

  9. For coverage here, work back from March 21 piece.


Whilst preoccupied with matters South American, I had failed to notice that the Easterbrook affair had gone nuclear. (In the tiny world of the blogosphere, at least.) Easterbrook, it seems, as well as his stuff for the New Republic, worked for ESPN. Which is owned by Disney. I think you see where I'm going with this... For those interested, Instapundit has more links than you can shake a stick at - working forward from around here - the links are in several of his posts.

Did we know that Easterbrook worked for ESPN? Did he not think it relevant? (Proof, though none is needed, that the First Amendment does not apply to private action. Generally.)

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