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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Independent and free at last!

There is, of course, no reason on earth why one should expect as a matter of principle to be able to read a newspaper without paying for it. So it's curious to note the strength of the irritation felt when the Indie's comment pages vanished behind a subscription wall. It wasn't so much the money - for a fiver you could have a day's access to the lot, archives and all. But somehow you just felt they shouldn't be encouraged. Well, I did, anyway.

So does the fall of the subscription wall feel like Christmas come early? Up to a point. The down side, of course, is that there is now a wider audience for pieces like this, in which the assassination of yet another Lebanese politician by Syrian spooks becomes a peg on which to hang an attack on... Israel and America, as if I needed to tell you. Pierre Gemayel: 'Another casualty of the Syrian-Israeli war'. Caught in the crossfire, you see, almost as if they got together and killed him jointly. Six of one and half a dozen of the other. The symmetry is perhaps slightly spoilt by the absence of attacks on Syria by Israeli-armed Lebanese forces committed to wiping the country off the map. But let's not nitpick.

And that's before we get started on the one and only accept-no-substitutes Fisk himself. I really haven't the heart to tackle him just now.

Let me instead remind you what the very best thing about free access to the Indie is: the magnificent, magisterial prose of Howard Jacobson. He doesn't just do Israel and anti-Semitism, naturally. He is the universal scourge of the fools, prigs, zealots, fashion victims and philistines of our age. Read him, for instance, on Richard Dawkins' rewrite of the Seventh Commandment.

But when he does turn to the contemporary Jew Question, a.k.a. Anti-Zionism... I don't think anyone else - notwithstanding honourable mentions for Melanie Phillips, David Aaronovitch and Jonathan Freedland - was more instrumental for me in crystallizing a vague unease into a conviction that the deafening silence of Gentile left/liberals must be broken. Hence this blog.

By way of a sample, here he is in July 2002, training his guns on Mona Baker after her remarks accusing Israel of 'some kind of Holocaust'. It would be nice to believe that the inanity of this sentiment had become more shockingly obvious over the last four years, but I fear that, at least for the average reader of the Independent, quite the opposite is true.

Whilst here he takes on fellow columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown:-

'The standard line all parties have tried to take is that it isn't anti-Semitic to criticise Israel. Nor is it. Nor should it be. Enough Jews criticise Israel, both within it and without. We look a little silly, though, we Jews of the new hard-skinned variety, being careful not to cry wolf Рof course it isn't anti-Semitism, of course it isn't! Рwhen substantial numbers of Muslims think otherwise. And not just in the mosques. In schools all over the Arab world anti-Semitic literature, some of it of Nazi origin, is required reading. Click on to the Radio Islam website and you will find that fraudulent exposé of Jewish world-domination, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which Egyptian television, too, has recently disinterred for the behoof of I do not know how many gullible viewers. But one would be too many.

'Thus have we adopted an ingenious quid pro quo of race relations: you don't like Jews, but we don't like saying you don't like Jews, therefore you do like Jews.'

- and again the passage of three and a half years has done nothing to diminish the urgent relevance of his words.

Finally here he is writing in August this year on the synergy between Western Islamists and Western media:-

'Myself, I think it is easy to show that they can get confirmation of their fantasies at far less expense from the front pages of our newspapers. If we are searching for a source of poisonous anti-western propaganda we need look no further than ourselves. It is we who peddle that "hegemonic single-narrative" which, for the politically naive and inflammable, explains history.

'There is hysteria abroad. That no experts on the psychology of extremism are putting their minds to this hysteria can only be explained by their not noticing it is there. And that is because it looks perfectly normal now to talk of Bush and Blair as though they are Stalin and Pol Pot. Iraq is no longer a tragic blunder, or even a cynical and selfish manipulation of truth; let any embryo terrorist see it as a wilful attempt to eviscerate Iraq of its Muslim population and there is nobody to tell him he is wrong. Afghanistan, as we narrate it, is going the same way.

'As for Israel and Lebanon, a new arrival from Mars would never guess that the conflict had causes which are at least open to conflicting interpretations. The front pages of our national newspapers depict sadism for the sake of it. Photographs show dead children. Reporters describe the slaughter of innocents as though their deaths were not only intentional but the sole purpose of the war. No context, no history, no intractable complexities. Just another story of obliteration to confirm the obliteration mindset of barely adult bombers who discern in us nothing but the same monster of solipsism that consumes them.'

(read it all)

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