Tuesday, January 03, 2006
  Time to get a Watch
Maybe it's just my cruddy ham-fisted IT skills, but it appears that the weblog Melanie Phillips Watch has suddenly vanished. It was a relatively young endevour that had great potential, and I am now contemplating putting out flyers hoping for its safe return. My suspicion is that, like the food tasters of ancient times - who had to sample their master's dinner to check for poison - such a job will eventually be the death of you. With this in mind I will fire the first salvo of the New Year. And fingers crossed that soon there will be more than one garbage truck to clean up this mess.

Phillips had taken the rather charitable step of not making posts over the festive season, a case of Christmas stealing the Grinch. But by the third day of the year, a year to which I am pinning quite a fair bit of hope, she had launched a blitz of six posts, some of them predictabaly repulsive. She showed her hypocrisy about individual liberty with short rants about drugs and euthanasia, which she knows full well have more to do with her [admittedly valid and reasonable] opinions than they do about protecting Britain from itself. In a move that tells us so much about her, she "translat[ed]" the term "bigotry" into "social protection", thus coming full circle and revealing to the British public why she once won the Orwell Prize for journalism. Happy New Year everybody! It's 1984.

But the issue I would like to dwell on a bit more comes in a post entitled Kafka's Britain (2). It's about the kidnapping of Kate Burton, the aid worker based in Gaza who was snatched by armed Palestinians last week. They also took her parents, who had taken the questionable decision to visit her in an increasingly dangerous and impoverished area, and held them in captivity for several days until she was released and eventually taken into the care of a Britsih diplomatic team.

My beef with this article is more or less split into two parts, both Phillips hallmarks. Firstly, the inaccurate description of events. Secondly, her demonisation of the Palestinians as a people [outrageous and callous racism in my book] and those who sympathise with their squalid living conditions and need for independence.

So, the article begins:

"The British press carries reports today of the fury and exasperation of British officials who rescued Kate Burton and her parents from their Palestinian kidnappers only to find that she refused to co-operate with them and would not be debriefed, thus potentially putting other innocent people in danger from similar activities"

The "British press" she is referring to is The Daily Mail, a right wing paper that I have on my lap here. On any issue it's a bad source, being right-wing, highly critical of immigration and Islam and is also one of the nasty places where Phillips plies her trade [in fact, she's on page 14 of this edition]. I have grown up with it in my house, becoming familiar with its love of the brutal British empire, its compassionless attitude to African poverty and its need to vanquish the opponents of Great Britain, no matter how insignificant the contest [for example, in the week that the International Olympic Committee decided that London should host the 2012 Olympics, The Mail took the inspired decision to print a selection of jokes about Britain's rival France, including such gems as: "Why do so many French men have moustaches? : To remind them of their mothers." A few more of those and The Sun wont have any BNP readers left]. It was inside The Mail that I first discovered Melanie Phillips and realised that what Einstein allegedly said was true:

""The difference between genius and stupidity is that there are limits to genius."

The impressive thing is that, with her selective citation, Phillips makes a witless, inaccurate and nationalistic article even worse than it already was. She writes that "...British officials...rescued Kate Burton..." The Daily Mail reported the story this way:

"Miss Burton and her parents, Hugh, 73, and Win, 55, were released to British officials on Friday night in a tense handover with the gunmen..." She was released, Phillips. They didn't need to call for a man in a bay costume or a smarmy secret agent replete with gadgets. Released. In fact, rather crassly, the kidnappers claimed they were doing it as "a gesture of goodwill". That she was released should come as no surprise. Hostages had been taken and released in quick succession before and after the Burton family in Gaza, such as the the Australian and Dutch teachers, who were held for eight hours last month. The various groups that do it do so to expose and mock the weakness of the corrupt, often ineffectual Palestinian Authority and to gain international attention for the wretched conditions around them. Or, as they told Kate Burton themselves, "getting their message across". The methodology is put well by Amira Hass of Haaretz:

"Foreigners taken hostage in Gaza have usually been released within hours. The kidnappers, who have tended to demand jobs or the release of prisoners as ransom, generally make contact with the authorities to immediately begin negotiations."

But not only was she released. She was released with the help and mediation of the Palestinian Authority, a fact unmentioned by The Daily Mail. This is going to be a real pain in the ass for those who want to slime the Palestinian people as a band of terrorists [more on that below], or claim that disproportionate use of force by the Israeli Defence Force is justified because Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership have no intention of preventing Palestinian terrorism themselves. British diplomats and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw worked side by side with Palestinains at various levels on this case, while the Palestinian authority at one point even threatened to use force against the kidnappers. Coming from an impoverished wasteland, currently having its infrastructure in the northern "buffer zone" bombed by Israel [in what the Israeli government and defence forces call retaliation for rocket attcks, knowing full well that collective punishment is NOT retaliation] this is impressive cooperation.

Melanie Phillips, along with The Daily Mail, also tries to pin the Stockholm Syndrome on Kate Burton. Citing her aunt, Phillips insinuates that she approved of the actions of her terrorist captors. The aunt's quote in The Daily Mail is this:

"Kate will be very forgiving of these men because she believes they wouldn't do this sort of thing without good reason. She has a very sympathetic nature."

Which sounds like a fairly usual thing for the daughter of quakers to think. And bear in mind that the aunt was merely guessing how she would feel. She is hardly going to attribute a vindictive streak to her cherished relative. Whatever she meant by that statement, it becomes significantly warped when it goes through Melanie Phillips' slime machine and is interpreted thus:

"...the kidnap victim's unaccountable sympathy with manipulative violence"


"...Burton appears unable to view her kidnappers as evil people"

As I said ealier, Phillips will rabidly attack anybody who feels that the people of Palestine, including those that she has seen first hand in the swamp of Gaza, are suffering. The best way to see what the victim felt about her kidnappers is to hear her speak. And when she says:

"I cannot forgive them for what they have done"


"I feel like I've been stabbed in the back. I was here to help"

then you realise what a ridiculous clown and circus combo Melanie Phillips and The Daily Mail make.

Now, Melanie Phillips has a good reason for all of this distortion. In her second part of the article she conflates the victim's hostage takers, the men who negotiated her release, the terrorist scum of Islamic Jihad and such groups, and the wretched, suffering Palestinian populations of Gaza and the West Bank into one murderous group, which she refers to as : "the Palestinians". She does it repeatedly, burping out noxious gas like:

"The same people - or at least, Kate Burton - regard those practising genocidal terror as the vulnerable to be helped in the Middle East conflict, while viewing their actual victims as oppressors."


"...the Palestinians' incitement of their children to mass murder..."


..."the Palestinian mass murder of Israeli innocents... "


..." the Palestinians were systematically trying to wipe out Israelis - the process which has been continuing without interruption for the past half-century ever since Israel was created. "

Stuff that is not only hateful and semantically sloppy, but also inaccurate. She can correctly claim that Israel comes in for especially harsh discrimination, [and despite Ahmadinejad of Iran trying to hog the dubious attention here, there are many high profile politicians that do it] but terminates any personal claims for the higher ground by actively participating in racism and discrimination of her own. People are not interchangeable, and to bulldoze an avenue of houses, cut the electricity in a municipality or impose a curfew in response to the acts of a terror group is sickening and simple-minded. But if you refer to the victims as "the Palestinians" then it presents them as a unified force with one ideology and fair game for military response when it enacts this ideology. So, if a group like Islamic Jihad launches Qassam rockets at Israeli civillians and the Israeli government responds by clearing north Gaza of its popuilation, then bombs the area, this is "the Palestinians" being punished for actions by "the Palestininas", much more palatable than a thorough investigation of events. A few months ago I wrote about what nonsense such a blanket hostility was and her latest outpourings reaffirm what a one-sided grasp of the issue she has.

Her distaste for Kate Burton is very clear under this context. Those groups which, using international law, criticize the Israeli government for its actions, or demand just treatment for Palestinians, are lambasted and said to be biassed against Israel. In the past she has attacked Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, putting herself in the company of gross little institutions like NGO Monitor. Both Phillips and NGO Monitor hope that, by delegitimizing such NGOs as mere anti-Israeli propagandists, they can stamp on the critics of the likes of Ariel Sharon, who use findings by neutral groups to back up their criticism. She attempts a similar thing here with Burton's NGO, saying:

"With their customary cirumlocution and moral obfuscation, the British media have described al Mezan, the organisation Burton worked for in Gaza, as a 'human rights' charity'. It would be more accurate to describe it as a 'human wrongs' charity. "

She also crtitises its "vile libels and distortions" and santising mass-murder. While the group does focus exclusively on Palestinian casualties on its website and its references to Islamic Jihad and Hamas are scanty, the basis for the group's findings are drawn from well-established human rights laws and international conventions, including those of the UN. So to criticise the IDF activities in Gaza is not a libel against Israel if it is established that they have happened. And the fact that they do not criticize attacks against Israel [more accurately, she couldn't find any criticism of such attacks] does not stop them being a human rights charity. Their mandate only extends to the Gaza strip, not Israel itself, so abuses outside of its borders are of no concern to them. This is troubling [what about gunfire from Gaza into Israel?], but a writer with more perspective would also note that they do not promote terrorism against the Israeli civilians either. What they do cover is Palestinian on Palestinian violence, including assasinations and the kidnappings that Phillips so snidely claims Kate Burton approves of.

So, a happy new year for Melanie Phillips, who has started no doubt as she means to continue. The disturbing incursions being made in the West Bank by Sharon's forces will soon provide more anger and more terrorism for her to sound off about. And when she hits her stride I hope there is a watch site to cut her down to size.
""The difference between genius and stupidity is that there are limits to genius."

That's definitely going to be one of our featured quotes. What a keeper!
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