Stephen Pollard, on his Spectator blog, cites an interesting case of "idle and gratuitous mindreading" in a BBC correspondent's analysis of how Tony Blair will be perceived in his new role. The technique is clearly standard among the corporation's journalists: this is from a profile of the new Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, by the BBC World Affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds:David Miliband's Jewish background will be noted particularly in the Middle East.
Israel will welcome this - but equally it allows him the freedom to criticise Israel, as he has done, without being accused of anti-Semitism.
I find this an extraordinary remark. Reynolds is an experienced correspondent, yet I can't begin to work out what he means. Surely he can't be saying that Israel regards it as relevant to its diplomatic goals whether the foreign minister of a particular democracy is a Jew. If that premise is what Reynolds is insinuating, then the least you can say is that he's plainly wrong. I have had the good fortune to speak in recent years to some of the most senior figures in Israeli politics and diplomacy, and I have never heard such a suggestion, even by implication, from any of them.
Perhaps they just determine on keeping it from me - but even then, such an aim would make no sense. Has Reynolds never heard of, say, Bruno Kreisky, Chancellor of Austria from 1970 to 1983? Kreisky, who died in 1990, was the most ferociously anti-Israel politician to lead any Western democracy since the founding of the Jewish state. Nor did he confine his invective to Israel. In a notorious statement to an Israeli interviewer, Zeev Barth, and reported in Der Spiegel on 17 November 1975, Kreisky described the Jews - not "the Zionists", or some similar equivocation - as "a wretched people" (ein mieses Volk). Kreisky was, of course, a Jew. I know of no evidence that a statesman’s being Jewish – not only incendiary figures such as Kreisky but also urbane politicians such as Sir Malcolm Rifkind - is any predictor of his views on foreign policy. Nor, I surmise, does Reynolds. Nor, I further surmise, does Reynolds have any evidence that Israeli statesmen believe there is. If he does, and he happens to be reading this, I'll be glad to acknowledge my error; but I'm sure he's making it up.
The problem with the sort of unsubstantiated and implausible notion that Reynolds has trailed here is that you don’t have to take it much further before you get into dangerous territory. Why might a Foreign Secretary of Jewish background be expected to favour Israel, not just historically and emotionally, but in current diplomatic disputes? The answer is, of course, that he might if he has some sort of “dual loyalty” – to Israel as well as to the UK. You don't need me to explain why that's an illegitimate and pernicious charge to make in political debate, against anyone. It’s an accusation about someone’s mental states and as such is unfalsifiable; it is thereby not a criticism but always and in all cases a slur. (A few years ago the writer Will Self, on an edition of BBC's Question Time, exemplified this technique by demanding of Melanie Phillips whom she would support if Great Britain were at war with Israel. I have, incidentally, an objection on similar grounds to the charge that someone – say, Norman Finkelstein or Noam Chomsky – is a “self-hating Jew”, and I never use the term.).......
...David Miliband's antecedents give us no clue whatsoever to his stance as Foreign Secretary.
read the rest here: The Milibands, the Jews and foreign policy