Friday, 13 December 2013

Mandela, Israel and the Irish Times

The Irish Times holds a significant position in the field of Irish media.  It is the 'national newspaper of record'.  This appellation is of doubtful value in itself, but it is rendered downright dangerous when the newspaper in question is over-burdened with such a sense of itself, with the sense of its own importance.  Such is the case with the Irish Times, a middlebrow journal of some vintage which has always sat at the conservative end of the liberal spectrum.  Unionist in the 19th and early 20th century, it negotiated independence carefully and with the greatest caution.  In my lifetime, it has been an organ for the 'liberal agenda', which unfortunately in Ireland has always been an agenda concerned principally with liberal freedoms in the personal arena, and with freedoms of business and capital in the public arena - two aspects of liberalism that hang together surprisingly well, and which were best embodied in the Progressive Democrats, Ireland's principal neoliberal political party.

Nowadays, the Irish Times struggles to find its way in a media jungle riven with the complications of electronica, collapsed advertising revenue, a somewhat more diverse public, and the apparent destruction of 'traditional' institutions of 'Irish life': the Roman Catholic Church, Fianna Fail, trust in politicians generally, and the Irish financial sector.  Its position remains one of caution, a conservative consensus bunched on the centre-right of the political field.  It takes its position seriously enough to attempt to maintain correspondents abroad, and policy analysts at home, though many of these are themselves minor institutions, valued in the paper as much for their cosy south Dublin familiarity and loyalty, as for any penetrating interpretative capacities, stunning erudition, or coruscating prose.

The paper's coverage of the Middle East is very much of a piece with this.  For every relatively clear-eyed and decent piece it publishes by Michael Jansen, veteran American Middle East correspondent  based in Beirut, it will 'balance' it with a piece laden with Zionist or Orientalist presuppositions by an Israeli 'liberal' such as Mark Weiss or David Horowitz.  For every honest and conscience-driven letter on the plight of the Palestinians, it frequently seems to publish multiple letters of the most astonishing mendacity and ignorance from the 'friends' of Israel.  Amidst this 'liberal' notion of 'balance', the reality of a rogue state choking an oppressed people often disappears, and an ethical sense nearly always does.

So, it was entirely to be expected, no matter how frustrating, that the Irish Times would fail to register any linkage or parallel between the death of Mandela and the question of Palestine.  Mandela's own statements on Palestine were forgotten, the useful and valid comparisons between Israel's ethnocratic apparatuses and the apartheid regime (both founded in 1948) ignored, and the deeply sordid collaborations of Israel and South Africa under the National Party carefully hidden.  Perhaps this is also why the paper did not publish the letter below, which I submitted last Tuesday:

December 10, 2013

In the context of global mourning for the passing of Nelson Mandela, I note 1) that Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided that travel to South Africa was too expensive for him to make the memorial service held in Mandela's honour today; 2) the Embassy of the State of Israel has not been flying its national flag at half-mast, unlike, for example, the Embassy of the United States, since Mandela's death last Thursday.

One is surely led to conclude that these offensive snubs are the product of guilt.  For it was the apartheid South African regime - with which Israel nursed corrupt relationships of military and technological collaboration, including nuclear weapons collaboration - which imprisoned Mandela for 27 years.  Presumably Mr Netanyahu and the Israeli diplomatic delegation in Dublin do not mourn the passing of Mr Mandela.  Perhaps they rather mourn the apartheid regime which he helped dismantle.  Indeed, how could they not, when they have created a comparable regime of ethnic domination and oppression in Israel and the West Bank?

yours sincerely

Conor McCarthy


My comrade and friend Raymond Deane has just published a characteristically insightful review of a signficant book on the Israel-South Africa relationship, Sasha Polakov-Suransky's The Unspoken Alliance: Israel's Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa, on his excellent blog:

The Deanery

No comments:

Post a Comment