Melanie Phillips on Israel TV
Melanie Phillips is a British journalist, author and public commentator. She started on the left of the political spectrum, writing for The Guardian and New Statesman. During the 1990s she moved to the right, and currently writes for The Times, Jerusalem Post and Jewish Chronicle, covering political and social issues from a social conservative perspective. Phillips defines herself as a liberal who has „been mugged by reality.“
Phillips has often appeared as a panellist on the BBC Radio 4 programme The Moral Maze and BBC One’s Question Time. She has written a number of books, including her memoir Guardian Angel: My Story, My Britain. She was awarded the Orwell Prize for Journalism in 1996, while she was writing for The Observer.
In 2013 she launched a US-focused e-book publishing company called emBooks, a branch of Melanie Phillips Electric Media LLC.
MP: Melanie Phillips
MP: I call it a pathology not likely and by pathology I mean it’s a kind of madness by which I mean this, that the people who are in the grip of this delusional perspective through which they view Israel and the middle east are simply impervious to reason, they’re impervious to evidence, they are impervious to facts. You bring along facts on the ground and they say no it’s not true. You tell them the history of the Middle East; they say no it’s not true. Now that’s not true of everybody. There are a very large number of people in my view in Britain who are not impervious to reason at all, they’re entirely rational but unfortunately the discourse they hear day after day, week after week, from the media, from the intelligentsia, from politicians across the political spectrum, from the universities, from their teachers in universities, all tells one story. It’s a story which turns truth and lies, justice and injustice, victim and victimiser in the Middle East on their heads. The problem is this; there is no alternative discourse that they hear, there is virtually no media outlet that tells the truth about the Middle East.
M: Are you saying Miss Phillips that Israel is defenceless?
MP: Israel has made itself defenceless over the years.
M: Made itself?
MP: Yes. There is a serious problem, as I have just described, among the western intelligentsia, amongst the British media political class, but Israel has contributed this problem in great measure because Israel has been absent from this process. Israel could have changed this if it had understood over these many years that this has been going on, that it is not just fighting on a military battleground, but it’s fighting on what I’ve called in my writing, the battleground of the mind. Israel has ignored that, Israel has taken the view we don’t care about…Britain’s lost anyway, Europe’s lost anyway, we have America, we have other things to do, we have many more things to concern us and we are not in the business of having to defend ourselves and our existence. Well unfortunately, they have vacated the battle ground to the other side.
M: What about what we call in Israeli Hebrew, Israeli Hasbara?
MP: Israeli Hasbara is a joke.
MP: An absolute joke. Israel is completely outclassed and out manoeuvred on a battleground it doesn’t even understand it is on. He doesn’t even have the basics of proper Hasbara, it is simply nowhere. The Arabs, the Palestinians, the Muslims have organised for years, they’ve put money and thought and intelligence and shrewdness behind this, they understand that the way they could win against Israel may not be a military route, they’ve been frustrated in that over the years as we all know. They’ve understood very well, there’s a weakness in Britain which they could exploit, that they could mount a kind of psychological warfare by which they would do two things; they would, by colonising the battleground of the mind for their lies and propaganda, they would do two things. They would recruit millions of fanatics to their cause who would literally be prepared to die for that cause, having been brainwashed into these lies which tell them that Israel or the Jews are about to destroy them, they’re about to destroy the Islamic world and so on and at the same time they could bamboozle the west because they understood very well that the western intelligentsia is signed up to a way of looking at the world which is, I would call, ideological. It’s to do with ideas and long ago it lost the idea, it lost the belief in truth that there was such a thing as truth.
If, for example, you say to people in Britain, you know the Jews are the only people for whom the land of Israel was ever their national homeland, they look at you as if you’re crazy, they have no idea, they have been told that the land of Israel was the homeland of Palestinian Muslims since time immemorial. They have no idea that historically this is absolute garbage, no one’s told them, no one tells them this, they have absolutely no idea of the legal commitments entered into by Britain and the international community after the First World War which said that on account of their unique claim to this land the Jews should be settled throughout Palestine.
M: And you’re talking about the intellectual community, about the press, about the theatre world, the arts…
MP: I’m talking about the community…
MP: …I’m certainly talking about all those people, and you know you have this here in Israel, I’m absolutely astounded to find so many of your luminaries in the universities who themselves have no idea of Jewish history, Israel history, middle east history, who themselves have been taught a whole load of rubbish and are teaching the young in Israel that Israel was basically born in sin. Quite a lot of the animosity in the British high class media is fed by organisations such as Haaretz newspaper. It’s coming out to a certain extent from Israeli academics; this cuts the ground from under the feet of those…
M: Yes but the recent freedom of the press in Israel, freedom of expression, everybody can express its own views including Haaretz.
MP: That’s absolutely fine. The problem has been that the government of Israel, over many years, has not understood that that is the only story being told. Freedom of the press fine, let Haaretz say whatever it wants to say but somebody should be putting the truth into the public domain and the government of Israel has not done this for many years. Freedom of the press, freedom of speech, absolutely but let’s have more of it, let’s have the freedom of speech used so that people are made aware of the lies being told because unless people are made aware of that how on earth are they supposed to know.
M: May be the idea of a Palestinian state, this is the solution, may be this will solve the problem.
M: It’s been advocated even by Mr Netanyahu, the prime minister.
MP: Of course it would solve the problem in the abstract but the fact is this terrible war has been conducted over the two state proposals. In other words the two states solution has been on offer as I said earlier from the 1930s onwards, it cannot be the solution. Every time it’s been offered there is more war, it is quite obvious if you offer…how can it possibly be still considered to be the solution, if only it were the solution I would wish it to happen. Who could possibly object to this idyllic scenario, it could work so well. State of Israel, State of Palestine…
M: Living side by side.
MP: …living side by side, economic cooperation, you can see a great future for both countries together. Fine, but this is to ignore the reality that this has been on offer since the 1930s, the other side, the Arab side, doesn’t want it, it wants Israel gone, it says so, it shows it by every word and deed and has done consistently for nine decades.
M: Miss Melanie Phillips, how many intellectual journalists in Britain share your views?
MP: There are intellectuals who think like this but they tend to be scorned and abused and vilified as the right, right wing, that all purpose nonsensical infantile insult which is designed to shut down argument. There is nothing remotely right wing about standing up for truth against lies, justice against injustice, freedom against those who would snuff out freedom and human life. Nothing right wing about that at all but this is the label hung around the necks of people like myself and believe me it has a very chilling effect on people because you can lose your professional livelihood, your chances of promotion, you lose your friends, it’s not something that people will willingly embrace.
M: Miss Melanie Phillips, thank you very much indeed.
MP: Thank you.
M: Thank you.