In a throwaway remark on Radio 4’s Today yesterday, Alex Brummer, City Editor of the Daily Mail, said: “In comparison with The Guardian and The Independent, which frequently demonises Israel, and in so doing demonises the broader Jewish community, [the Daily Mail] is right behind them.” The Guardian can speak for itself. In relation to The Independent, Mr Brummer’s claim is false, myopic, wilfully ignorant, an offence against the integrity of our staff, and an insult to you, our readers.
It is true that, since its founding in 1986, The Independent has championed Enlightenment values; and there have been times when the actions of the Israeli government have not been driven by enlightened thinking.
Our coverage of Israel is led by our multiple award-winning Middle East Correspondent, Robert Fisk. Mr Fisk, in three decades reporting on that region, understands it better than most of those who slander him, and has been at pains to distinguish between opposition to Israeli policy and anti-Semitism. For 13 of his years at The Independent, he was edited by Simon Kelner, a man of Jewish provenance who has done a very great deal to support Britain’s Jewish diaspora.
No other British newspaper publishes such a wide range of views. In relation to Israel and the Jewish community we have published countless articles that oppose our own editorial line. Some were written by commentators who happen to be Jewish (we have several); others were not.
Mr Brummer, then, committed two intellectual errors. First, misinterpreting our robust views and scepticism as demonisation; second, conflating opposition to Israeli policy with anti-Semitism. The latter is ironic, given how many Jews, in Britain and elsewhere, oppose the actions of successive Israeli administrations.
Incidentally, in an article filed before Mr Brummer’s silly remark, Howard Jacobson assesses the career of Woody Allen on page 47. Demonisation doesn’t come into it, though you can make up your own mind about that.