This is cross-posted at the blog, Daphne Anson
If, like me, you’re owned by a cat or dog, chances are that you associate Frontline with a veterinary product which with super-efficiency zaps fleas and tapeworms. However, for metropolitan champagne socialists, whether scribes or non-scribes, Frontline is just as likely to signify the Frontline Club, motto: “Championing Independent Journalism”. The club seems particularly fond of inviting as speakers journalists known for their harsh criticism of Israel – inevitably, therefore, Jeremy Bowen of the BBC and Jon Snow of Channel 4 have both featured on its guest list. (Al Beeb’s College of Journalism website has links to both resultant videos – funny about that, eh?) And not only journalists – Frontline also hosted, on one inglorious occasion, that professorial trio of Jewish Israel-loathers Jacqueline Rose, Shlomo Sand, and Avi Shlaim.
It’s been said of Bowen that he comes across as a thwarted thespian, but I reckon that it’s Snow who’s the actor manqué. Yes, he really ought to be in show business, did histrionic Jon. Authoritative voice raised in pompous indignation, arms flailing to emphasise a point, the well-connected university drop-out (actually, he was rusticated when his leftist political activism went too far ) who admits to getting his start as a television reporter owing to nepotism, has almost become a pastiche of himself. A few years ago, around Remembrance Day, with the dismissive phrase “poppy fascism”, he announced his refusal to conform to etiquette (some might say “decency”) and wear a British Legion poppy in honour of Britain’s fallen service personnel – the people who gave their lives so that democracy and free speech might endure. His hammiest performances have included shouting in self-righteous anger at Israeli media spokesman Mark Regev regarding Cast Lead and the Mavi Marmara affair, performances that reinforced Snow’s cult status in anti-Israel circles and made him the darling of those hateful types who post nasty judeophobic messages on YouTube whenever a video of Regev appears there.
Gideon Levy, an Israeli journalist writing for Ha’aretz, where he has a column called “Twilight Zone”, is of a decidedly thespian disposition too. He’s an assured and accomplished speaker with a flair for the dramatic and an instinct for working an audience that many a budding actor at RADA would envy. A “hate-mongering post-Zionist” is the veteran international Jewish leader Isi Leibler’s assessment of him (Jerusalem Post, 8 December 2008). Levy demonises his own country, saying how ashamed he is to be Israeli, how brutal and indifferent to human suffering his countrymen are, and how he appreciates the boycott movement – all the usual obscenities and maybe a little bit more. Here’s how Leibler described him more recently:
“For those who are unaware, Levy is regarded as one of the most extreme and outspoken of the Israeli anti-Zionist journalists, notorious for demonizing Israel and supporting the most anti-Israeli groups. He repeatedly brackets Israeli behavior with that of the Nazis, accuses Israel of practicing apartheid and committing war crimes, and defines himself as anti-Zionist. He accuses Meretz, Peace Now and others on the far left in Israel of lacking the courage to open “the 1948 file.”‘
Levy came Britain to appear at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and to promote his tome The Punishment of Gaza, an anthology of his Ha’aretz screeds, and he’s had plenty of opportunities to do so outside the Scottish capital, and to carry on the task of spreading hate against Israel, having (to quote Snow) “played to packed houses at last-minute events in both Manchester and London”.
This evening both Snow (as interviewer) and Levy (as speaker) are appearing before the Frontline Club, reprising the roles that they filled last evening when they appeared, at the premises of Amnesty International UK’s Human Rights Action Centre and under the auspices of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Jews for Justice for Palestinians (a motley collection of idealistic naive Jews, hard left Jews, as-a-Jews, and conveniently-for-the-purpose-of-bashing-Israel-halachic-but-not-raised-as-Jews/practising-a-religion-other-than-Judaism-Jews [delete as appropriate]). Seeing the 350 persons present (who judging from their questions proved in the main to be every bit as hostile to Israel as the speaker himself ), Levy wryly remarked “No-one would show up if I spoke in Tel Aviv”, and then launched into his usual charm offensive and demonisation of Israel and its (Jewish) inhabitants.
Snow made it easy for him, gushing “How brave you are!” and being – in the words of a pro-Israeli present, one of the few people in the audience to pose a tough question – “cloyingly obsequious” and an “unctuous sycophant”.
And in his Snowblog posted this morning, headed “An increasingly lone Israeli voice”, Snow continues his adulation of Levy, appearing to have swallowed his canards hook, line, and sinker. Just as well, then, that better informed voices, such as those of Jonathan Hoffman and Yisrael Medad, have been commenting over on that blog to set the record straight.