Interviewing Netanyahu and analysing the Gaza phenomenon
Two and a half years ago I posted on this blog a provocative extract from a BBC interview with Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu about Israel’s attack on Hezbollah in Lebanon and the issue of proportionality. It prompted, predictably, a lively debate in comments on it. Now ‘mazal tov’ has posted a new comment on that 2006 post which links to a blog post which in turn has a link to an audio clip of a different BBC interview with Netanyahu, this time by the Today Programme’s John Humphrys, both in typically ebullient form. The clip, an mp3 file that may take a few moments to load, is here. It’s fascinating to listen to, whatever view you might take of the middle east conflict, for at least two reasons: first, because of the powerful parallels between Israel’s assault on Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006 and its more recent assault on Hamas in Gaza, which make Netanyahu’s remarks uncannily topical nearly three years later; and secondly because of the strong possibility that Netanyahu will either become prime minister of Israel following the recent Israeli elections, or else will play a weighty part in, or in relation to, whatever new government does eventually emerge. I am grateful to ‘mazal tov’ (whose pen-name, to his credit, leaves no doubt about where he’s coming from) for sharing this revealing clip with us.
I refrain from commenting on the substance of the Netanyahu interview except to point out that although the Israeli attack on Hezbollah in Lebanon in July 2006 was widely regarded, even in Israel, as a humiliating defeat for Israel, it did prompt the UN Security Council to pass a resolution which in effect endorsed Israel’s principal war aims in launching its attack, and that since then rocket attacks on Israel by Hezbollah in Lebanon have almost entirely ceased.
As a postscript, to those who (like me) have been dismayed by the ferocity and one-sidedness of the denunciations of Israel over its attack on Hamas in Gaza on the part of much of the UK media and large parts of British public opinion, I strongly commend a passionate polemic by Howard Jacobson in the Independent newspaper’s online ‘Independent Minds Live Journal’ posted on 18 February 2009. It’s hard to disagree with Jacobson’s thesis that whatever aspects of Israel’s actions deserve strong condemnation, they manifestly weren’t so utterly atrocious as to justify the outpourings of bile against Israel that disfigured the reaction in Britain to the events in Gaza, terrible as they were. Jacobson’s piece begins:
A discriminatory, over-and-above hatred, inexplicable in its hysteria and virulence whatever justification is adduced for it; an unreasoning, deranged and as far as I can see irreversible revulsion that is poisoning everything we are supposed to believe in here – the free exchange of opinions, the clear-headedness of thinkers and teachers, the fine tracery of social interdependence we call community relations, modernity of outlook, tolerance, truth. You can taste the toxins on your tongue.
But I am not allowed to ascribe any of this to anti-Semitism.
You may well not agree with Jacobson’s analysis, but whether you do or not, read it with an open mind and then ask yourself whether perhaps he might have a point. (Hat-tip to the much reviled Melanie Phillips for — predictably — commending Howard Jacobson’s essay on her blog.) You might, incidentally, take the view that many of the comments appended by readers to Jacobson’s essay tend to confirm his worst fears.
PS: Reflections in comments below on the Netanyahu interview or the Jacobson essay are very welcome, but this is not, please, the place for renewed verbal warfare either in condemnation or in justification of the actions in Gaza or Lebanon of Hamas, Hezbollah or Israel, however strong the emotions they provoke.
Update, 21 Feb. 09: My old friend and (verbal only) sparring partner Peter Harvey points out, justly, that his blog was there first with the article by Howard Jacobson, which he both quotes and praises. I arrived at it via Melanie Phillips’s blog, as I acknowledge above (don’t all hiss at once) which in turn was mentioned in some Twitterer’s Tweet, I forget whose. Hat-tips all round, drinks on me.