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 The Guardian

Thursday, March 11, 2004

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David Irving comments:

MAX Hastings has occasionally been scoffed at by punier writers for his war reporting from the Falklands, but nobody can gainsay the quality and courage of his writing.
He made fine (and lucrative) use of the immense files I turned over to him for his book on the D-day landings, and in his book on Bomber Command he was the first to reveal an official document which briefed the seven thousand British airmen attacking Dresden on Feb 13, 1945, that the true explanation was that the city was "far the largest unbombed built-up area the enemy has got." One of "the intentions of the attack", the document added, was "incidentally to show the Russians when they arrive what Bomber Command can do."
With equal courage he now joins those who do not hesitate to expose the manner in which certain Jews -- in this case our old foes, the Board of Deputies of British Jews -- generate anti-Semitism, perhaps wilfully, by their clandestine attempts to control the news media and smear those who continue to print the truth.
Although Max was in earlier years an occasional guest at my own social functions in Duke Street, I hasten to add that the dinner party from which he claims to have prematurely fled was not one of these.

Max Hastings

MAX mentions the anti-Semitism of authors like John Buchan (later Governor-General of Canada). I ventured during the Lipstadt trial, on Day 18, when trying to establish a scale of "acceptable" anti-Semitism, to put to the witness Richard "Skunky" Evans a particularly anti-Semitic passage from Buchan's pre-war novel The Thirty Nine Steps -- published by none other than Penguin Books Ltd, Lipstadt's mega-wealthy co-defendants in the action, who were accusing me of anti-Semitism; they were on that day still peddling that book unchanged in Oxford Street bookstores.
   Mr Justice Gray swiftly intervened to rule the question out of order. Ah. I see. I think I do, anyway.


A grotesque choice

Israel's repression of the Palestinian people is fuelling a resurgence of anti-semitism

by Max Hastings

IT is impossible to doubt that genuine anti-semitism -- racial antipathy towards Jews -- is resurgent in Europe and even, in some circles, becoming respectable. A few years ago, my wife and I found ourselves at a dinner party that included several Austrian guests. Mischievously, I asked a female member of the Vienna government sitting opposite me how her country was coping with the Nazi embarrassments of its president, Kurt Waldheim.

She stiffened. "President Waldheim is a fine and good man, who has been grossly traduced by a conspiracy of Jews," she said severely. Her husband interjected: "My father always told me that most of the things the Jews say about the war are lies." Our English host added supportively: "Jews cause most of the trouble in the world, what?"

At this point, the Hastingses departed without explanation. In the car, still shaking with rage, my wife said: "They weren't just pretending to be anti-semitic, were they? They were the real thing." It is rare to encounter such unashamed malevolence at a modern English dinner table, and thus all the more shocking when it happens.

Before the second world war, such sentiments were commonplace, not least in the "Clubland Hero" thrillers of Buchan, Sapper and Dornford Yates. "Bolshevik Jews" were responsible for many of the villainous conspiracies frustrated by Richard Hannay, Bulldog Drummond and Jonah Mansell, before they gave the culprits a good flogging.

It has often been observed that Hitler did the British ruling classes a favour by making anti-semitism no longer respectable. Yet as late as September 1944, a Foreign Office official named Arminius Dew minuted: "In my opinion, a disproportionate amount of the time of the Office is wasted on dealing with these wailing Jews." Only in April 1945, when the concentration camps were revealed to the world, did the historic sea change in sentiment take place.


I WOULD suggest that the first stirrings of renewed animosity towards Jews in Europe emerged in the 70s. When I made this point to an Israeli acquaintance, he observed sourly: "Yeah, when the world stopped seeing us losers on trains to the death camps." For it is, of course, the issue of Israel that has provoked some change of sentiment.

Many of the remarks that Jewish critics denounce as anti-semitic are, in reality, criticisms of Israel or its government. Five years ago, when I was editing the Evening Standard, the Board of Deputies of British Jews asked to send a delegation to my office to protest at our coverage of the Middle East. I refused, saying that I would meet at any time to discuss matters pertaining to British Jews, but that Israeli affairs were the province of the Israeli ambassador.

A month or so later, I was lunching with Vere Rothermere, then chairman of the family newspaper company. "I had a visit on your account yesterday," he said with a quixotic grin. "From the Board of Deputies. They said you wouldn't see them. They say you are anti-semitic. They warned me that the Israeli Likud wants to organise a boycott of the Evening Standard."

I asked how he had responded. "I told them that such a boycott would be a very good story for the Standard," said Lord Rothermere, which helps to explain why, as an editor, I held his family in such respect as proprietors.


IN general, across the British media, managerial attitudes are less robust. Several proprietors are fervent Zionists, while rather more take the cynical view that the Middle East is an intractable issue of no more interest to their readers than Northern Ireland. Palestinians present an unsympathetic face to the western world. Given the ferocity with which some Jewish readers respond to criticism of Israel, many executives perceive sceptical coverage of Israel's excesses as more trouble than it is worth.

In this country, only the Guardian and Independent deal thoroughly with what is taking place, and display real sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians. Elsewhere a lot of space is given to apologias for Israeli conduct, some of which reveal a contempt for Palestinian human rights that invites the most baleful of historical comparisons.

It is a tribute to Israeli propaganda success that many commentators seem happy to regard as just a possible peace deal that would leave Israel in control of settlements and strategic roads in a Palestinian state. It is a measure of how far matters have gone that when Ariel Sharon announced the closure of some settlements in Gaza, it was hailed as a historic breakthrough.

In the eyes of some of us, even the Oslo accords promised no realistic prospect of a viable Palestinian society. They represented the outer limit of what Israeli liberals believed they could sell to their own nation, but they offered the Palestinians no chance of economic, social or political lift-off because the terms denied any hope of self-respect.

I reply to every reader's letter accusing me of anti-semitism because the issue seems so important. They make the cardinal error of identifying the Jewish people with the Israeli government, wilfully confusing anti-semitism and anti-Zionism. Often, they seem to demand that the behaviour of Israel should be judged by a special standard, that allows the likes of Sharon and Netanyahu a special quota of excesses, in compensation for past sufferings.

For many years, Israelis in debating difficulties have played a decisive trump: "You have no right to criticise our actions, because of the Holocaust." Ruthless exploitation of the Holocaust card has been successful in deflecting much international criticism, especially from European democracies.

Charges of anti-semitism are not infrequently levelled against the growing number of Jews who express dismay about the behaviour of the Israeli government; they are "self-hating Jews", who betray their own kin. Yet surely it is those who make such cruel allegations who bring shame upon themselves.

Jewish genius through the centuries has been reflected in the highest intellectual standards. Attempts to equate anti-Zionism, or even criticism of Israeli policy, with anti-semitism reflect a pitiful intellectual sloth, an abandonment of reasoned attempts to justify Israeli actions in favour of moral blackmail. In the short run, such intimidation is not unsuccessful, especially in America. Yet in the long term, grave consequences may ensue. In much of the world, including Europe, a huge head of steam is building against Israeli behaviour.

More than a few governments are cooperating less than wholeheartedly with America's war on terror because they are unwilling to be associated with what they see as an unholy alliance of the Sharon and Bush governments. One of Germany's most distinguished postwar leaders expressed to me a few months ago his frustration that, as a German, he is unable to vent his feelings about the wickedness of what is being done in Israel's name.

I feel a commitment to the Jewish people, founded on awareness partly of their history, partly of their genius. Yet I see no reason why this should prevent me from asserting that the policies of Sharon and Netanyahu bring shame upon Israel.

It is ironic that Israel's domestic critics -- former intelligence chiefs and serving fighter pilots -- have shown themselves much braver than overseas Jews. If Israel persists with its current policies, and Jewish lobbies around the world continue to express solidarity with repression of the Palestinians, then genuine anti-semitism is bound to increase. Herein lies the lobbyists' recklessness. By insisting that those who denounce the Israeli state's behaviour are enemies of the Jewish people, they seek to impose a grotesque choice.

The Israeli government's behaviour to the Palestinians breeds a despair that finds its only outlet in terrorism. No one can ever criticise the Jewish diaspora for asserting Israel's right to exist. But the most important service the world's Jews can render to Israel today is to persuade its people that the only plausible result of their government's behaviour is a terrible loneliness in the world.

Max Hastings is a former editor of the Daily Telegraph and the London Evening Standard



Guardian review of Max Hasting's memoirs, Editor

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