The Middle East Is Too Important for This Name-Calling; the Spectator's Proprietor Conrad Black Has Attacked Three Leading Writers Whom He Says Illustrate "The Depths of the Problem of Anti-Semitism in the British Media". One of the Three, A.N. Wilson, Says Friends of Israel Can Be Critics Too

Article excerpt

Byline: A.N. WILSON

THE CURRENT situation in Israel is terrifying on many levels.

Thousands of human lives are being made wretched.

Politicians - Israeli, Palestinian, American, European - know that the merest word can have the power to send out another fanatic to hurl a bomb at a bus stop, or could justify some further reprisal on one side or the other.

Peace and justice seem, to outside observers, to be held in precarious balance. Meanwhile, children die, families fester in poverty with no running water, and the refugees are kept in camps year in, year out.

The brave and good people in the Middle East are those who have dared to climb down from the extremist positions and to realise that peace is achievable. Some things - such as which religious tradition can lay the loudest or most persuasive claim to ownership of Jerusalem - will always be areas of disagreement. But in dozens of small ways, Israelis and Palestinians of goodwill have, believe it or not, been trying to live at peace with one another for decades.

Politicians from the outside world bear heavy responsibility for what goes on - particularly the Americans, obviously, but also the British, whose enforced abandonment of the mandate led to the creation of the State of Israel over half a century ago. And, in our small way, we journalists need to watch our words.

On the whole, the British Press and the broadcasters have given a well-balanced presentation of what is happening in the Middle East at the moment British TV viewers have been able to see for themselves the dismaying sight of Israeli conscript soldiers being required by their commanding officers to open fire on children. We are not so naive as to suppose that those children are not being used by Palestinian activists. But we have enough experience of this sort of thing on our own Northern Irish doorstep to know the dire consequences of governments trying to crush the legitimate aspirations of an independent people by the tank and the gun.

CONRAD Black is the proprietor of the Telegraph group in this country, and of the Jerusalem Post, the Jerusalem Report and other papers. His support for the State of Israel and his enthusiasm for the Rightwing version of that cause is no secret. When he took over the Jerusalem Post, a large proportion of the staff, too sympathetic for Black's tastes to Yitzhak Rabin and the peace process, were sacked.

In England, Black would appear to take the line that anyone who supports the position of the more liberal Israelis in their struggle for peace is, in fact, an anti-Semite. This view of things is, to put it mildly, perverse.

To treat Israel as a "special case", to make it the one country in the world which can never be criticised, whatever it does, is surely in itself a racist notion. …


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