A lot has been said in recent weeks about Liam Fox, and very little of it is true. It may well be, as Fox himself has said, that he “blurred the lines”. It may be that he made a serious error in not formalising Adam Werritty’s role. But he was also the subject of a range of totally unsubstantiated witch-hunts which ended up scalping the best Defence Secretary in a generation. Among those witch-hunts, one stood out.
Fox could have survived the innuendo about his friendship with Werritty. He could have survived further speculation about his friend and adviser’s business dealings. He certainly could have survived the revelation that both men had meetings with people from Sri Lanka. But the moment when it was clear it was all over was when the press started repeating, for no apparent reason, the fact that Fox is “pro-Israel”. “That’s it”, I thought: “time to send for the removal men.”
Over recent days, the wildest imaginable headlines have been run by broadsheet and tabloids. Last Sunday, the Observer led its front-page with: “Revealed: Hidden Tory links to US radical right”. If you were under the impression that “radical right” might, like “radical left”, mean something really nasty, then you’d have been disappointed to discover that the relevant links were -prepare yourself – to pro-business organisations. But there is a notch even beneath this in the lexicon of dastardliness. For the British press, the circle of hell beneath that inhabited by Americans arguing for lower taxes is anyone at all with a link to Israel.
The British press no longer use the term “pro-Israel” descriptively – only ominously. To state that someone is pro-Israel is not to state a fact but to make a slur. It is to suggest dark and sinister dealings. It is as fine an example as exists of the moral inversion that now grips this country.
So the press repeatedly highlighted that Werritty had been with Fox at the Herzliya Conference in Israel. Worse even than appearing in Israel was the fact that Fox was known to be “for” the country he had been in. In contrast, few reports mentioned that Fox was “pro-Sri Lanka”. Indeed, the press didn’t bother to investigate Fox’s attitudes towards any of the other countries in the world that exist and whose existence – as a result – Fox recognises. Saying someone is for a country should be like saying they are “pro-gravity” – not so much a statement of principle, just a statement of fact. But when the country in question is not just a friend and ally, but a beacon of common values in a neighbourhood blighted by despotism and fanaticism, to be additionally supportive of the state ought to constitute not an aberration but a demonstration of decency.
Of course this is not what it means any more. In the eyes of our press, to say someone is “pro-Israel” is to make a statement about malign motives and malign intent. If you are “pro-Israel” then the gloves are off. And there are several well-worn illogical conclusions that this always heads towards.
Sure enough, stories followed about rich Jewish and Israeli donors. Liam Fox has always been supportive of Israel. But, once the money trail story comes up, another theme is suggested: nobody could actually support that country, it says. Not, unless they were being paid.
It was the Independent that took the plunge the others wanted to. Last Sunday it ran on its front page: “Werritty ‘plotted with Mossad to target Iran’.” There’s something especially delicious about those quotation marks. A hybrid of “scare-quotes” and “we-know-we-can’t-stand-this-one-up-so-we’ll-use-these-to-pretend-we-haven’t-invented-it” quotes. Perhaps I do them an injustice. Perhaps Johann Hari was their source.
Amid all this, it was claimed that Werritty had met members of the Iranian opposition. Even if this was remotely true, when did opposing the usurping Revolutionary Islamic government in Tehran become a negative? How will Werritty ever make this up to the Independent? Perhaps he’ll not be rehabilitated until he’s finally done time promoting the gay-hanging, women-torturing genocide-mongering theocracy in Tehran. Only then will he finally be allowed to rejoin civilised British society.
A friend from Northern Ireland often used to say how funny the Troubles would have been if it weren’t for all the guns. It’s the same with Israel. It would be laughable how absurd the moral disorientation towards Israel in Britain has become – if it weren’t all the warm-up to genocide.
A concerted effort is being made in this country to normalise the abominable and abominate the normal. When people wonder how nightmares come about: this is how. First, you lose control of the facts. Second, you lose control of the language. Finally, you lose control of events.