Sniffing out

4 Aug 2009 by CST

Richard Ingrams, in trying to explain why he holds out little hope that the Iraq war inquiry will confirm his opinion of the conflict, helpfully informs his Independent readers that two of the members of the Iraq war inquiry panel – Sir Martin Gilbert and Sir Lawrence Freedman – are “Jewish historians”. He does not clarify why he thinks this is relevant to his opinion of the panel, nor his low expectations of its work, but he does add that they are both “thought to have been in favour of the war.” 

Ingrams offers no evidence for this. He has previously referred to a column Sir Martin Gilbert wrote in 2004, in which Gilbert argued that just as Roosevelt and Churchill were heavily criticised by their contemporaries, so Bush and Blair might one day be judged as favourably as their predecessors are now: “The passage of time both elevates and reduces reputations.” Freedman’s writings on Iraq and Afghanistan, and the wider political and strategic questions they raise, by no means show him to be an unqualified supporter of either war: for example, here, here and here

I have no idea whether Ingrams read any of those articles by Freedman before assessing that he supported the war in Iraq; but I doubt they would have altered his view. For Ingrams had already decided that Freedman and Gilbert are both “committed Zionists”. 

“Committed Zionists”, “Jewish historians” – you can see a pattern, and it is one that Ingrams has stuck with for some years now. Back in 2003, Ingrams wrote in his Observercolumn that: 

I have developed a habit when confronted by letters to the editor in support of the Israeli government to look at the signature to see if the writer has a Jewish name. If so, I tend not to read it. 

In 2006, by now writing for the Independent, Ingrams called for anybody writing in support of Israel to declare whether they were Jewish or not:

 Otherwise, the idea gains ground that Israel has a fifth column of politicians, commentators, businessmen, etc, in this country all seeking, at this time, in their different ways, to excuse or explain away Israeli atrocities in Lebanon and Gaza.

When challenged on his determination to identify those Jews who publicly support Israel, Ingrams defended it as simply doing his job as a journalist:

 A columnist has to sniff out the things that aren't mentioned for one reason or another, and this is one of those things. Everyone is so hypersensitive about it, so the issue is left out of the discussion.

As Howard Jacobson wrote in a response to Ingrams, ascribing views and loyalties to people on the basis of their religion or ethnicity is a dangerous path to go down.

However, there will always be some who are grateful for any detective work “sniffing out” potential fifth columnists. Just as the neo-Nazi magazine Spearhead reprinted Ingrams’ 2003 Observer column, so now the Islamist lobbying group Engage has republished his column identifying Gilbert and Freedman as “committed Zionists”. You would expect this from Spearhead, but Engage, an organisation which aims to defend British Muslims from Islamophobia, should know better.

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