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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Evil Empire

Christian Aid News No. 23 (Winter 2004)

It makes a pleasant change to admit that I can’t find too much to object to in this issue’s coverage of Israel and Palestine. A short article accompanies a photo of artist John Keane in Gaza, promoting his Christian Aid-sponsored exhibition of paintings from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. It refers to “key issues – ever-worsening poverty, as well as terrorism, military closures, clampdowns and violence”, and of Israeli missile attacks on Yasser Arafat’s compound it says “each new strike in retaliation for an attack on Israeli citizens by Palestinian suicide bombers”. One could argue as to whether an invalid moral equivalence is being implied between terrorism and responses to terrorism, but at least the existence of the terrorism has been properly acknowledged.

I have my usual concern about the way this one conflict is emphasised. There’s nothing at all on Africa’s conflicts, and certainly no art exhibition. On the other hand no less than four pages are devoted to Afghanistan. “Revival – An Afghan ghost town returns to life” is the main headline, and the accompanying feature makes plain the misery inflicted on the country by the Taliban regime, and the new hope that has been created by their overthrow.

Revealingly, however, Christian Aid can’t quite bring themselves to acknowledge that the Taliban were ousted by American military action. Accusing the Americans of embezzling Iraqi oil revenues (a news item in this issue) is a lot more ideologically congenial, it seems.

Christian Aid is basically tagging along here with the pervasive anti-Americanism of the secular Left – you can’t pick up a copy of the Guardian without encountering it. Does this matter? Isn’t it just a natural reflection of the fact that you don’t get to be the most powerful nation in human history without rubbing a few people up the wrong way, and aren’t the Americans big enough and ugly enough (note to American readers: please don’t take this British idiom literally!) to take a bit of flak?

I think it matters in the general sense that knee-jerk anti-Americanism creates a climate of hysteria in which it becomes all but impossible to have a rational discussion about the rights and wrongs of American policy (and yes, of course there are plenty of the latter). That’s not the particular concern of this blog, but it matters also in the more specific sense that anti-Americanism very easily spills over into anti-Israeli attitudes. It is after all undeniable that Israel is America’s closest ally in the Middle East, and the recipient of a large slice of the US overseas aid budget. Demonize one and it will come naturally to demonize the other – and you will all too easily find yourself in the company of those who believe that a Jewish conspiracy underpins the relationship.

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