CST Blog

Dispatches: Too late to shut the stable door

17 November 2009

Pre-publicity for last night’s Channel 4 Dispatches programme, “Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby” suggested that the programme would make startling revelations about “Britain’s Israel Lobby”. As previously explained on CST blog, this had more than a worrying whiff of conspiracy theory.

At the end of last night’s programme, its presenter Peter Oborne very sternly told the viewers that they had not "found anything even faintly resembling a conspiracy". This echoed Oborne’s words in the previous day’s Guardian, where his article (previously critiqued on CST blog) said

It is important to say what we did not find. There is no conspiracy, and nothing resembling a conspiracy

Oborne is no fool when it comes to racism. His booklet, “Muslims Under Siege”, (published in association with a previous Dispatches programme of the same name), is a fine explanation of how media coverage can have a racist impact. Nevertheless, his stern admonition that “there is no conspiracy” remains a case of shutting the stable door after the horse had bolted - one hour of innuendo about “pro-Israeli” moneybags controlling the Conservative and Labour Parties; “pro-Israeli  intimidation of British media; premeditated “pro-Israeli” abuse of antisemitism; and sinister music accompanying photos of “pro-Israelis” blurred across Israeli and British flags.

To be crystal clear, this is not to accuse Peter Oborne or anyone associated with the programme of being antisemitic. However, given everything that we know about how racism works, CST (and many others) wearily predicted that this programme would be heartily enjoyed by antisemites everywhere. Indeed, CST blog explicitly showed how the programme appealed to antisemites. We did so by citing the programme’s own website comment thread: prior to its even being transmitted. The mere promise of revelations about “Britain’s Israel Lobby” was more than enough to get antisemites’ juices flowing.

CST does not propose curtailing press freedoms because of drooling antisemites, but we remain keenly aware of the potential for media comment to promote racism. This includes the manner in which the public associates Jews with Israel, and the fact that antisemitic incidents increase when the Middle East, and particularly Israel, is in the news.

Indeed, there are even antisemitic incidents in which the perpetrator is actually watching mainstream media coverage of Israel; simultaneously shouts antisemitic abuse; and then subsequently expresses great remorse for having behaved in such a manner. The recent sad case of senior Foreign Office official, Rowan Laxton, exemplifies this very troubling phenomenon. CST is aware of another case, unpublicised, that bears very close relation to the Laxton incident, and in which CST itself received the antisemitic abuse. Again, the perpetrator subsequently expressed great remorse for his seemingly out of the blue behaviour. These, and similar cases, suggest that there is a lot more unconscious antisemitism in modern British society than any of us may care to admit.

One very small example of the inadequacy of Oborne’s (nevertheless most welcome) statement that this is no conspiracy, may be found on the New Statesman website, where the magazine’s senior political editor, Mehdi Hasan had flagged up the programme.

“Daniele”, posting at 0041hrs, comments:

The contents of "Dispatches" were very revealing and shocking.I had not suspected that the Jewish lobby was as influential in Britain as it is in America. I was wrong. What else are all these Jewish organisations doing if not involving themselves in a conspiracy to corrupt the British establishment in favour of the state of Israel?

… Now as to me, I expect I shall be branded an anti-semite and worse by all the "friends of Israel" reading this blog. Here you go.

“self hating leftist” posting at 12:51hrs, comments:

Just a thought, why not learn from your enemies, find out how these Israeli/Jewish lobby achieve this influence...

So, two comments. One of which simply substitutes “the Jewish lobby” for Israel Lobby (and then goes on to complain that she will be unfairly branded an antisemite); and another which writes “Israeli/Jewish” as if no distinction can be made between the terms Jewish and Israeli. This is why Oborne shut the stable door too late.

For all too many viewers, however, perhaps this is a stable that never had a door in the first place.

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