Commentary Magazine


Topic: Brits

How Israel Can Win the PR War

In yesterday’s post, I focused on a disturbing incident described by PR guru Frank Luntz in a Jerusalem Post interview — an incident in which American Jewish college students proved utterly unwilling or unable to defend Israel. But Luntz also offered a constructive strategy for how to improve this situation.

Again, he used an example to illustrate his point: a meeting with a group of “high income, high education, politically connected” Brits who were “so hostile to Israel” that “I’d given up … There was no message that resonated remotely well with them. And I finally said ‘to hell with it. We’ll give them the Hamas Charter’” — or, more accurately, a “word for word” version taken from Hamas’s website and then “edited down to one page.”

The results surpassed his wildest expectations: at the end, “28 of the 30 said, ‘How dare Israel negotiate with these people?’”

Luntz’s point is simple: when people have preconceived notions about Israel, it’s very hard to dislodge those notions — to convince them, for instance, that Israel did not wantonly target civilians in last year’s war in Gaza, or has not created a humanitarian crisis there by its blockade. But it is possible to persuade them that no matter how bad Israel is, its enemies are much, much worse — and therefore even someone who dislikes Israel should nevertheless back it against those enemies.

Though Luntz did not elaborate, it’s not hard to see why this should be so. First, people generally know much less about Hamas or Hezbollah than they think they do about Israel, so there are fewer preconceived notions to try to dislodge. Second, Israel’s enemies truly are evil and make no effort to hide it, so the case is easy to prove.

The third, and perhaps most important, reason was excellently explained by another PR professional, Sarah Kass, in a Jerusalem Post article last month. The title says it all: “It’s all defense, all the time.”

Israel’s enemies, Kass explained, are conducting a classic PR offensive, designed to keep the focus relentlessly on Israel and away from themselves. Thus they never talk about themselves; they talk only about Israel.

Israel, however, does the opposite: it talks almost exclusively about itself, constantly trying to defend its own actions rather than focusing on its enemies’ actions. And to listeners, Kass noted, this just sounds like “whining.”

What Israel should be doing, she argued, is exactly what its enemies do: focusing relentlessly on the other side. For only in that context — a battle against a truly evil enemy — can Israel’s defensive measures ever be understood.

“The country has a winning story that has nothing to do with anti-Semitism or the Holocaust,” Kass concluded. “It has to do with the degeneracy of globally coordinated fanatics who seek their own death and wish to take the world down with them.” Essentially, that’s the same point Luntz was making.

But this is a story the world doesn’t know — and never will unless Israel and its supporters start telling it.

In yesterday’s post, I focused on a disturbing incident described by PR guru Frank Luntz in a Jerusalem Post interview — an incident in which American Jewish college students proved utterly unwilling or unable to defend Israel. But Luntz also offered a constructive strategy for how to improve this situation.

Again, he used an example to illustrate his point: a meeting with a group of “high income, high education, politically connected” Brits who were “so hostile to Israel” that “I’d given up … There was no message that resonated remotely well with them. And I finally said ‘to hell with it. We’ll give them the Hamas Charter’” — or, more accurately, a “word for word” version taken from Hamas’s website and then “edited down to one page.”

The results surpassed his wildest expectations: at the end, “28 of the 30 said, ‘How dare Israel negotiate with these people?’”

Luntz’s point is simple: when people have preconceived notions about Israel, it’s very hard to dislodge those notions — to convince them, for instance, that Israel did not wantonly target civilians in last year’s war in Gaza, or has not created a humanitarian crisis there by its blockade. But it is possible to persuade them that no matter how bad Israel is, its enemies are much, much worse — and therefore even someone who dislikes Israel should nevertheless back it against those enemies.

Though Luntz did not elaborate, it’s not hard to see why this should be so. First, people generally know much less about Hamas or Hezbollah than they think they do about Israel, so there are fewer preconceived notions to try to dislodge. Second, Israel’s enemies truly are evil and make no effort to hide it, so the case is easy to prove.

The third, and perhaps most important, reason was excellently explained by another PR professional, Sarah Kass, in a Jerusalem Post article last month. The title says it all: “It’s all defense, all the time.”

Israel’s enemies, Kass explained, are conducting a classic PR offensive, designed to keep the focus relentlessly on Israel and away from themselves. Thus they never talk about themselves; they talk only about Israel.

Israel, however, does the opposite: it talks almost exclusively about itself, constantly trying to defend its own actions rather than focusing on its enemies’ actions. And to listeners, Kass noted, this just sounds like “whining.”

What Israel should be doing, she argued, is exactly what its enemies do: focusing relentlessly on the other side. For only in that context — a battle against a truly evil enemy — can Israel’s defensive measures ever be understood.

“The country has a winning story that has nothing to do with anti-Semitism or the Holocaust,” Kass concluded. “It has to do with the degeneracy of globally coordinated fanatics who seek their own death and wish to take the world down with them.” Essentially, that’s the same point Luntz was making.

But this is a story the world doesn’t know — and never will unless Israel and its supporters start telling it.

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The Worst Brit PM: Loser of the Colonies or Appeaser of Hitler?

As we await the results of today’s British elections, it’s hard to work up much enthusiasm about the outcome, given the dismal choices facing the voters there. David Cameron, the not-very-conservative Conservative leader who doesn’t appear to be much of a friend to the United States, might be the best of the lot compared with Gordon Brown and Labour, and especially with the hard-left anti-Israel venom emanating from the Liberal Democrats led by Nick Clegg, but that is to damn Cameron with faint praise.

But whoever the next resident of No. 10 Downing Street may be, the Times of London has provided readers with an interesting feature about his predecessors, ranking the top 50 British prime ministers. A panel of political writers and journalists — not historians — composed the list, but it still is enough to spark a lively conversation about the subject.

At the top of the list (no surprise here) is Winston Churchill, though it should be noted that the panel wasn’t unanimous about the choice, with one of the members voting for the overall No. 2 choice: David Lloyd George, who led Britain to victory during World War One. The rest of the top 10 were: William Gladstone, William Pitt the Younger, Margaret Thatcher, Sir Robert Peel, Clement Atlee, Earl Grey (it pays to have a tea named after you), Robert Walpole, and Benjamin Disraeli. (In case his buddy George W. Bush is interested, Tony Blair was ranked number 16, tied with the elder William Pitt.)

More curious than the leaders in the poll, most of whom are obvious choices, were the ones at the bottom. For those of us whose view of 20th century British history was primarily formed by our interest in the battle between Churchill and the “guilty men” who appeased Hitler, it is fascinating to note that while Neville Chamberlain’s name is synonymous with infamy, the Times panel thinks that he wasn’t really all that bad, ranking him at 34th, which is not so good but far from the bottom. Interestingly, fellow appeaser Stanley Baldwin, who preceded Chamberlain, was ranked fairly high at 14th, apparently because of the slick way he handled the abdication of Queen Elizabeth’s uncle the Duke of Windsor.

So who did the panel think were the worst prime ministers? Interestingly, the bottom three of this list of 49 men and one woman were the three Brits who lost the American colonies: Lord George Granville, the Duke of Grafton, and Lord North (1770-1782), who was the last and the least. There’s no question that these three were terrible British leaders, but I’m not exactly sure what it says about the Times of London — or Britain for that matter — that their panel thinks the creation of the United States was a greater disaster for their country than a policy of appeasement that led to a global war and to Auschwitz. I’d have thought that our friends across the pond had gotten over the results of the Battle of Yorktown a long while ago, but perhaps now that President Obama has put an end to the “special relationship” with Britain, the chasm between our two nations — divided, as G.B. Shaw said, by “a common language,” is even greater than we could have imagined.

As we await the results of today’s British elections, it’s hard to work up much enthusiasm about the outcome, given the dismal choices facing the voters there. David Cameron, the not-very-conservative Conservative leader who doesn’t appear to be much of a friend to the United States, might be the best of the lot compared with Gordon Brown and Labour, and especially with the hard-left anti-Israel venom emanating from the Liberal Democrats led by Nick Clegg, but that is to damn Cameron with faint praise.

But whoever the next resident of No. 10 Downing Street may be, the Times of London has provided readers with an interesting feature about his predecessors, ranking the top 50 British prime ministers. A panel of political writers and journalists — not historians — composed the list, but it still is enough to spark a lively conversation about the subject.

At the top of the list (no surprise here) is Winston Churchill, though it should be noted that the panel wasn’t unanimous about the choice, with one of the members voting for the overall No. 2 choice: David Lloyd George, who led Britain to victory during World War One. The rest of the top 10 were: William Gladstone, William Pitt the Younger, Margaret Thatcher, Sir Robert Peel, Clement Atlee, Earl Grey (it pays to have a tea named after you), Robert Walpole, and Benjamin Disraeli. (In case his buddy George W. Bush is interested, Tony Blair was ranked number 16, tied with the elder William Pitt.)

More curious than the leaders in the poll, most of whom are obvious choices, were the ones at the bottom. For those of us whose view of 20th century British history was primarily formed by our interest in the battle between Churchill and the “guilty men” who appeased Hitler, it is fascinating to note that while Neville Chamberlain’s name is synonymous with infamy, the Times panel thinks that he wasn’t really all that bad, ranking him at 34th, which is not so good but far from the bottom. Interestingly, fellow appeaser Stanley Baldwin, who preceded Chamberlain, was ranked fairly high at 14th, apparently because of the slick way he handled the abdication of Queen Elizabeth’s uncle the Duke of Windsor.

So who did the panel think were the worst prime ministers? Interestingly, the bottom three of this list of 49 men and one woman were the three Brits who lost the American colonies: Lord George Granville, the Duke of Grafton, and Lord North (1770-1782), who was the last and the least. There’s no question that these three were terrible British leaders, but I’m not exactly sure what it says about the Times of London — or Britain for that matter — that their panel thinks the creation of the United States was a greater disaster for their country than a policy of appeasement that led to a global war and to Auschwitz. I’d have thought that our friends across the pond had gotten over the results of the Battle of Yorktown a long while ago, but perhaps now that President Obama has put an end to the “special relationship” with Britain, the chasm between our two nations — divided, as G.B. Shaw said, by “a common language,” is even greater than we could have imagined.

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What Lesson Will David Cameron Teach Americans?

The prospect of Florida Governor Charlie Crist pulling out of the Florida Republican Senate primary will, no doubt, send into a tizzy those who want the GOP to move to the center and away from the dreaded Tea Partiers and Sarah Palin. While this is more a matter of a flabby, pointless Crist campaign being knocked out of the box by a hugely popular and principled opponent in Marco Rubio than of a “moderate” being driven from the party by so-called extremists, there’s no question that this race is an indication of where the Republicans are headed.

While an independent candidacy by Crist might pose a challenge to Rubio in November, those who have advocated for Republican to move closer to the Democrats on health care and a host of other issues must come to grips with the fact that all the energy and emotion in Florida has come from those who want the GOP to challenge the Obama administration, not to copy it. The point is, when Republicans lose touch with their base and find themselves bogged down in the mushy middle, they tend to lose and lose badly.

Florida’s politics couldn’t be much more different from those of Britain, but the way the general election in that country is going has to give pause to those who believe that a nonideological candidate and party of the Right is the only way to fight the Left. Conservative Party leader David Cameron thought he was coasting to inevitable victory after 13 years of Labor government. But Cameron, a telegenic upper-class swell, believed that Tories who were actually conservatives couldn’t possibly win. So he recast his party to be advocates of global-warming alarmism, criticized the closeness of the Labor government to that of George W. Bush (Obama’s disdain for Brits of any political persuasion has taken the juice out of this issue), and proposed an approach to domestic issues based on a communitarian idea of a “Big Society,” which sounds suspiciously similar to Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” liberal boondoggles of the 1960s.

Yet far from greasing the skids to victory, trying to be liberal has actually derailed his campaign. A third party, the Liberal Democrats, is further to the Left than Labor on many issues and has in Nick Clegg, a far more focused leader than either Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Labor or the good-looking but feckless Cameron. Cameron thought that fudging the differences with Labor would make it easier for him to win. But, instead, it has given Clegg and the Lib Dems an opening to be the party of change in Britain. Thus, rather than a Tory cakewalk, the May 6 election looks increasingly like a dead heat that could leave Labor in power by itself or even in coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

It could be that by discarding genuine Conservative ideology (this is the party of Margaret Thatcher, after all), Cameron may be pulling defeat from the jaws of victory. It may be too late for Cameron to tack to the Right and give voters a reason to vote for his party. As it is, a watered-down Conservative Party is rightly seen as no different from the incumbent Laborites to an electorate desperate for a real alternative.

Last November, David Frum wrote in COMMENTARY that Cameron’s tactics provided a good lesson for American conservatives as they sought to rebuild from their 2008 defeat. He believed that by tacking to the Left, Cameron had aligned his priorities with those of the country and had essentially volunteered to do what political necessity would have forced him to do anyway. As Frum put it, “the leader you want is someone who appeals to the voters you need to gain, not the voters you already have.” Since “educated and professional voters, once the backbone of the Republican party,” had swung away from conservatism, Frum believed that Republicans must follow them as Cameron had done.

David Cameron’s fate is not yet decided. And we are months away from the proof of whether a candidate like Marco Rubio will lead Republicans to victory in a key state like Florida. But if in abandoning conservative principles Cameron has set the Tories up for a colossal reversal of fortune, it may be that the lesson the handsome Brit will teach his American brethren is how to lose an election that was considered in his pocket — not how to win one.

The prospect of Florida Governor Charlie Crist pulling out of the Florida Republican Senate primary will, no doubt, send into a tizzy those who want the GOP to move to the center and away from the dreaded Tea Partiers and Sarah Palin. While this is more a matter of a flabby, pointless Crist campaign being knocked out of the box by a hugely popular and principled opponent in Marco Rubio than of a “moderate” being driven from the party by so-called extremists, there’s no question that this race is an indication of where the Republicans are headed.

While an independent candidacy by Crist might pose a challenge to Rubio in November, those who have advocated for Republican to move closer to the Democrats on health care and a host of other issues must come to grips with the fact that all the energy and emotion in Florida has come from those who want the GOP to challenge the Obama administration, not to copy it. The point is, when Republicans lose touch with their base and find themselves bogged down in the mushy middle, they tend to lose and lose badly.

Florida’s politics couldn’t be much more different from those of Britain, but the way the general election in that country is going has to give pause to those who believe that a nonideological candidate and party of the Right is the only way to fight the Left. Conservative Party leader David Cameron thought he was coasting to inevitable victory after 13 years of Labor government. But Cameron, a telegenic upper-class swell, believed that Tories who were actually conservatives couldn’t possibly win. So he recast his party to be advocates of global-warming alarmism, criticized the closeness of the Labor government to that of George W. Bush (Obama’s disdain for Brits of any political persuasion has taken the juice out of this issue), and proposed an approach to domestic issues based on a communitarian idea of a “Big Society,” which sounds suspiciously similar to Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” liberal boondoggles of the 1960s.

Yet far from greasing the skids to victory, trying to be liberal has actually derailed his campaign. A third party, the Liberal Democrats, is further to the Left than Labor on many issues and has in Nick Clegg, a far more focused leader than either Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Labor or the good-looking but feckless Cameron. Cameron thought that fudging the differences with Labor would make it easier for him to win. But, instead, it has given Clegg and the Lib Dems an opening to be the party of change in Britain. Thus, rather than a Tory cakewalk, the May 6 election looks increasingly like a dead heat that could leave Labor in power by itself or even in coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

It could be that by discarding genuine Conservative ideology (this is the party of Margaret Thatcher, after all), Cameron may be pulling defeat from the jaws of victory. It may be too late for Cameron to tack to the Right and give voters a reason to vote for his party. As it is, a watered-down Conservative Party is rightly seen as no different from the incumbent Laborites to an electorate desperate for a real alternative.

Last November, David Frum wrote in COMMENTARY that Cameron’s tactics provided a good lesson for American conservatives as they sought to rebuild from their 2008 defeat. He believed that by tacking to the Left, Cameron had aligned his priorities with those of the country and had essentially volunteered to do what political necessity would have forced him to do anyway. As Frum put it, “the leader you want is someone who appeals to the voters you need to gain, not the voters you already have.” Since “educated and professional voters, once the backbone of the Republican party,” had swung away from conservatism, Frum believed that Republicans must follow them as Cameron had done.

David Cameron’s fate is not yet decided. And we are months away from the proof of whether a candidate like Marco Rubio will lead Republicans to victory in a key state like Florida. But if in abandoning conservative principles Cameron has set the Tories up for a colossal reversal of fortune, it may be that the lesson the handsome Brit will teach his American brethren is how to lose an election that was considered in his pocket — not how to win one.

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Harems on The Dole

The International Herald Tribune reports that male British citizens who’ve taken multiple wives in countries where polygamy is legal can claim welfare benefits for them in England.

There’s more to worry about here than the exorbitant cost of England’s welfare overreach or the plunging respect for traditional nuclear families. Here’s the Tribune:

The ministry estimates that up to 1,000 polygamous relationships exist in Britain, and the ruling is expected to primarily benefit members of the Muslim minority who married elsewhere under Islamic law.

In July of 2007, a British court found Muktar Said Ibrahim and three accomplices guilty of trying to bomb London tube stations in retaliation for England’s involvement in the Iraq War. In order to figure out the monetary expense to English tax payers, you’d have to add £165,000 to the cost of the trial. That’s the amount that Ibrahim and his buddies had collected in welfare before attempting to blow up some Brits on their way to work.

There are three interlocking points: without personal investment in a nation’s productivity no person can ever call themselves a citizen of that nation in anything but the legal sense. Furthermore, a country cannot make one-way accommodations for a sector of its population and hope to see a shared sense of citizenship develop. And when a significant minority of that sector is bent on undoing the nation itself, such accommodations amount to state-sponsored masochism.

The International Herald Tribune reports that male British citizens who’ve taken multiple wives in countries where polygamy is legal can claim welfare benefits for them in England.

There’s more to worry about here than the exorbitant cost of England’s welfare overreach or the plunging respect for traditional nuclear families. Here’s the Tribune:

The ministry estimates that up to 1,000 polygamous relationships exist in Britain, and the ruling is expected to primarily benefit members of the Muslim minority who married elsewhere under Islamic law.

In July of 2007, a British court found Muktar Said Ibrahim and three accomplices guilty of trying to bomb London tube stations in retaliation for England’s involvement in the Iraq War. In order to figure out the monetary expense to English tax payers, you’d have to add £165,000 to the cost of the trial. That’s the amount that Ibrahim and his buddies had collected in welfare before attempting to blow up some Brits on their way to work.

There are three interlocking points: without personal investment in a nation’s productivity no person can ever call themselves a citizen of that nation in anything but the legal sense. Furthermore, a country cannot make one-way accommodations for a sector of its population and hope to see a shared sense of citizenship develop. And when a significant minority of that sector is bent on undoing the nation itself, such accommodations amount to state-sponsored masochism.

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Peacekeeping in Iraq

My Council on Foreign Relations colleague Stephen Biddle makes an excellent point in this Washington Post article. He cautions against concluding that, because American forces have had greater success recently in pacifying Iraq, they can be pulled out with impunity.

At best, as Steve notes, Iraqis will observe a fragile truce in the years ahead. Even if terrorism continues to fall, distrust among the various sectarian and ethnic groups will continue to run high. In such a situation, maintaining the peace requires the presence of a trusted outside force that can be seen as a neutral arbiter of intercommunal disputes and protector of each side against the other.

In Bosnia and Kosovo, that role has been played since 1995 and 1999, respectively, by NATO forces. In Iraq, there is scant prospect of other countries dispatching peacekeeping forces, at least not until the situation becomes a lot less violent than it is even today. Many of our remaining allies (the Poles, Brits, and Australians) are already pulling their forces out. That leaves the U.S. military as the only possible long-term peacekeeping force.

“The troop counts normally sought for peacekeeping are not much lower than those for counterinsurgency war fighting, at least in the early years, and a meaningful outside presence can be needed for a generation,” Biddle writes.

He’s right. And it would be a good thing if President Bush, the various presidential candidates, and Congressional leaders started talking more publicly about the need for this kind of generational commitment. As Steve notes, “If we are not prepared to stay in large numbers for a long time, the gains of recent months could easily be reversed.”

My Council on Foreign Relations colleague Stephen Biddle makes an excellent point in this Washington Post article. He cautions against concluding that, because American forces have had greater success recently in pacifying Iraq, they can be pulled out with impunity.

At best, as Steve notes, Iraqis will observe a fragile truce in the years ahead. Even if terrorism continues to fall, distrust among the various sectarian and ethnic groups will continue to run high. In such a situation, maintaining the peace requires the presence of a trusted outside force that can be seen as a neutral arbiter of intercommunal disputes and protector of each side against the other.

In Bosnia and Kosovo, that role has been played since 1995 and 1999, respectively, by NATO forces. In Iraq, there is scant prospect of other countries dispatching peacekeeping forces, at least not until the situation becomes a lot less violent than it is even today. Many of our remaining allies (the Poles, Brits, and Australians) are already pulling their forces out. That leaves the U.S. military as the only possible long-term peacekeeping force.

“The troop counts normally sought for peacekeeping are not much lower than those for counterinsurgency war fighting, at least in the early years, and a meaningful outside presence can be needed for a generation,” Biddle writes.

He’s right. And it would be a good thing if President Bush, the various presidential candidates, and Congressional leaders started talking more publicly about the need for this kind of generational commitment. As Steve notes, “If we are not prepared to stay in large numbers for a long time, the gains of recent months could easily be reversed.”

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BBC Crimes and Misdemeanors

Peter Fincham, the controller for England’s BBC One broadcasting channel, recently resigned. Fincham quit after the “Beeb,” as it is known in the UK, showed a documentary that misleadingly suggested (by juggling images) that Queen Elizabeth had stormed out of a photo session with American photographer Annie Leibovitz. Although leaving any session with Leibovitz, the much-overpraised ex-lover of the late writer Susan Sontag, might merely be a sign of good taste, the Beeb has elsewhere shown a murky relationship with factual accuracy, notably in its wildly biased anti-Israel posturing.

In 2003, the British Ministry of Defense weapons expert David Kelly committed suicide after BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan cited him (falsely, according to Kelly as well as a later public inquiry) as having said that Tony Blair’s government had “sexed up” a report on Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction prior to the invasion of Iraq. More recently, the BBC’s crimes against accuracy and humanity are most visible in that abomination of a channel known as BBC America, which panders to the lowest imaginable level of viewer, filling its program schedule with miserable fare like a show in which pathetic Brits desperately sell all their belongings in order to purchase a Jacuzzi, or some such. In another program, harridans accuse hapless guests of having filthy homes. BBC America also presents rude English sociopaths as quiz hosts, fashion advisers and chefs, no doubt based on some marketing study that points to execrable Brit multi-millionaires like American Idol’s Simon Fuller and Simon Cowell, who have cashed in by following the theory that it is impossible to underestimate the intelligence of the American public. Never mind that BBC-TV contains a matchless archival library of great performances on film by actors like John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson, and Judi Dench, not to mention fascinating classical music concerts and other riches. BBC America offers no culture, none whatsoever, since blatant monetary greed as a cash cow is its only reason for existing.

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Peter Fincham, the controller for England’s BBC One broadcasting channel, recently resigned. Fincham quit after the “Beeb,” as it is known in the UK, showed a documentary that misleadingly suggested (by juggling images) that Queen Elizabeth had stormed out of a photo session with American photographer Annie Leibovitz. Although leaving any session with Leibovitz, the much-overpraised ex-lover of the late writer Susan Sontag, might merely be a sign of good taste, the Beeb has elsewhere shown a murky relationship with factual accuracy, notably in its wildly biased anti-Israel posturing.

In 2003, the British Ministry of Defense weapons expert David Kelly committed suicide after BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan cited him (falsely, according to Kelly as well as a later public inquiry) as having said that Tony Blair’s government had “sexed up” a report on Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction prior to the invasion of Iraq. More recently, the BBC’s crimes against accuracy and humanity are most visible in that abomination of a channel known as BBC America, which panders to the lowest imaginable level of viewer, filling its program schedule with miserable fare like a show in which pathetic Brits desperately sell all their belongings in order to purchase a Jacuzzi, or some such. In another program, harridans accuse hapless guests of having filthy homes. BBC America also presents rude English sociopaths as quiz hosts, fashion advisers and chefs, no doubt based on some marketing study that points to execrable Brit multi-millionaires like American Idol’s Simon Fuller and Simon Cowell, who have cashed in by following the theory that it is impossible to underestimate the intelligence of the American public. Never mind that BBC-TV contains a matchless archival library of great performances on film by actors like John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson, and Judi Dench, not to mention fascinating classical music concerts and other riches. BBC America offers no culture, none whatsoever, since blatant monetary greed as a cash cow is its only reason for existing.

A report in the Guardian last April that BBC America plans to stop showing its unbearable Benny Hill reruns is cold comfort, considering its slew of newly minted trash TV like the brainless Footballers’ Wives, a miserable Brit wannabe fantasy based on ancient American TV trash like Dynasty, Falcon Crest, and The Love Boat.

It is clear from its programming over the years that the dim bulbs in charge of BBC America truly believe that Aaron Spelling is to be worshiped and slavishly imitated. As in the case of Simon Fuller and Simon Cowell, what is vilest in Brit broadcasting all too easily becomes assimilated as part of America’s imbecilic TV scene. Paul Lee, who launched BBC America in 1998, was hired as president of the ABC Family network in 2004, doubtless due to his track record of providing the stupidest, most crassly profitable viewing material imaginable. Until the BBC and BBC America recall that some aspects of British culture are in fact admirable and of permanent interest, it looks like the channels will maintain their TV imitation of Yankee stupidity.

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Fair Play at Oxford

This month the same Oxford Student Union that, in 1933, famously passed a motion declaring ‘”this House will under no circumstances fight for its King and Country,” is being true to the legacy of its forebears. As British blog Harry’s Place reports, on October 23 the Union, in its annual Middle East debate, will put forth the following motion: “This House Believes that One State is the Only Solution to the Israel Palestine Conflict.”

There are no surprises in the Union’s choice of the three speakers seconding the motion. Avi Shlaim, Ilan Pappe, and Ghada Karmi have for many years been anti-Israel agitators whose writings had only a shallow pretense of academic impartiality. If debate is meant to be shrill rather than thoughtful, venomous rather than witty, the Union chose the perfect line-up.

Karmi, a medical doctor moonlighting as an academic, has the dubious record of having voiced some of the same opinions on Israel as those of Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, before Ahmadinejad emerged from obscurity. In 2004, Karmi wrote that

The truth is that the West, which created Israel, cannot bear to see what it has done. In trying to solve the problem of Jewish persecution in Europe, which culminated in the Holocaust, Western powers helped to establish the Jewish state as a refuge for the Jews and their own consciences.

While Karmi clearly is not a Holocaust denier, she would nevertheless underwrite Ahmadinejad’s suggestion that Israel’s birth was the Western answer to guilt over the Holocaust. She would also support the idea that Israel should be relocated to Europe or Alaska.

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This month the same Oxford Student Union that, in 1933, famously passed a motion declaring ‘”this House will under no circumstances fight for its King and Country,” is being true to the legacy of its forebears. As British blog Harry’s Place reports, on October 23 the Union, in its annual Middle East debate, will put forth the following motion: “This House Believes that One State is the Only Solution to the Israel Palestine Conflict.”

There are no surprises in the Union’s choice of the three speakers seconding the motion. Avi Shlaim, Ilan Pappe, and Ghada Karmi have for many years been anti-Israel agitators whose writings had only a shallow pretense of academic impartiality. If debate is meant to be shrill rather than thoughtful, venomous rather than witty, the Union chose the perfect line-up.

Karmi, a medical doctor moonlighting as an academic, has the dubious record of having voiced some of the same opinions on Israel as those of Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, before Ahmadinejad emerged from obscurity. In 2004, Karmi wrote that

The truth is that the West, which created Israel, cannot bear to see what it has done. In trying to solve the problem of Jewish persecution in Europe, which culminated in the Holocaust, Western powers helped to establish the Jewish state as a refuge for the Jews and their own consciences.

While Karmi clearly is not a Holocaust denier, she would nevertheless underwrite Ahmadinejad’s suggestion that Israel’s birth was the Western answer to guilt over the Holocaust. She would also support the idea that Israel should be relocated to Europe or Alaska.

Shlaim enjoys a celebrity status as an anti-Israel historian, who holds an Israeli passport and briefly lived in Israel during his youth. His take on Israel, as an interview with Haaretz two years ago reveals, is tinged with deep personal resentment. As Meron Rapoport, his interviewer, wrote, “since he was a child, Israel has looked to him like an ‘Ashkenazi trick’ of which he doesn’t feel a part. ‘I’m not certain even now that I know how that trick works.’”

In the past, Shlaim has made some tepid efforts not to burn his own credentials as a serious scholar by occasionally distancing himself from his more radical fellow-travelers of the post-Zionist Left. As late as January 2005, Shlaim defended Zionism before 1967. Still, at an Intelligence 2 debate in London, Shlaim sided with the motion that “Zionism today is the worst enemy of the Jews.” Ilan Pappe, for his part, is consistent in his hatred for the Jewish state—so much so that he has abandoned Haifa University for the more pastoral environs of Exeter University in the U.K., where, with his department colleague Ghada Karmi, he can pursue peacefully what academics of his kind do best: promote the boycott of Israeli universities.

For the three speakers seconding the motion on Israel, the Union got the most extreme voices one could imagine. And for the other side? As the blog Harry’s Place notes,

Surely the Oxford Union, that bastion of fair and open debate, will have chosen some unflinching supporters of Israel to balance this motley collection of bigots and fanatics? Of course not! If one side includes virulent enemies of Israel and supporters of terrorists and anti-Semites, then so must the other.

To be fair, not all three members of the other side are anti-Semites and supporters of terrorists. Sir David Trimble truly is sympathetic to Israel, and has never supported terrorists—in fact, he has spent a great deal of time pleading with his fellow Brits to halt communication with his country’s home-grown brand of thugs. But the selection of the other two speakers indicates that Trimble will be lonely that night. They are Norman Finkelstein (who, clearly, after his early retirement from academia must have time on his hands) and Peter Tatchell, a British gay activist who recently commented that, had the Jerusalem World Pride parade been sponsored by the “Israeli state,” he would have boycotted it. Thankfully, the evil Zionists had no hand in the organization, and so Tatchell felt that, for once, he could approve of something happening in the Jewish state.

This is how the “bastion of fair and open debate” and the “world’s most prestigious debating society” understands fair play. As in 1933, not Britain’s finest hour.

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John Burns’s America

John Burns, the distinguished New York Times foreign correspondent who just recently left his posting in Baghdad (where he had been stationed since before the Iraq war), granted an interview with the British Independent last week. Burns is an honest reporter who never lets ideology get in the way of his work, and his Iraq coverage is widely admired by both those who oppose and support the war.

A man perhaps more well-traveled than anyone, a member of “a new tribe that lives on 747′s,” Burns, who is British, offers his views of the United States:

He is a “tremendous admirer” of the U.S. and thinks anti-Americanism is fool-headed. “People need to make a clear distinction in their mind between a war at present that they judge ill and a country that is a very great nation of which we are all—not just we Brits but all of us everywhere—beneficiaries. What kind of world would this be without America, its power, its culture, its generosity, its enterprise, its invention, and what it has taught us all about liberty? I’m sorry if that sounds jingoistic—I believe it.”

Perhaps Naomi Klein’s husband, Canadian television host Avi Lewis, will invite Burns onto his talk show. As Lewis did with previous guest Ayaan Hirsi Ali, he can inform Burns that his “faith in American democracy is just delightful,” and ask the distinguished Englishman, “Is there a school where they teach you these American clichés?” No doubt Burns’s credibility would underscore the foolishness of Lewis’s ruminations.

John Burns, the distinguished New York Times foreign correspondent who just recently left his posting in Baghdad (where he had been stationed since before the Iraq war), granted an interview with the British Independent last week. Burns is an honest reporter who never lets ideology get in the way of his work, and his Iraq coverage is widely admired by both those who oppose and support the war.

A man perhaps more well-traveled than anyone, a member of “a new tribe that lives on 747′s,” Burns, who is British, offers his views of the United States:

He is a “tremendous admirer” of the U.S. and thinks anti-Americanism is fool-headed. “People need to make a clear distinction in their mind between a war at present that they judge ill and a country that is a very great nation of which we are all—not just we Brits but all of us everywhere—beneficiaries. What kind of world would this be without America, its power, its culture, its generosity, its enterprise, its invention, and what it has taught us all about liberty? I’m sorry if that sounds jingoistic—I believe it.”

Perhaps Naomi Klein’s husband, Canadian television host Avi Lewis, will invite Burns onto his talk show. As Lewis did with previous guest Ayaan Hirsi Ali, he can inform Burns that his “faith in American democracy is just delightful,” and ask the distinguished Englishman, “Is there a school where they teach you these American clichés?” No doubt Burns’s credibility would underscore the foolishness of Lewis’s ruminations.

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