Daily Israel Report

Oped: Giulio Meotti Takes on The Economist

In a hardhitting article, Italian journalist Giulio Meotti documents the influential magazine's subtle and not-so-subtle Israel bashing.
By Giulio Meotti
First Publish: 12/2/2011, 2:26 PM

The Economist Cover
The Economist Cover
The Economist

In contrast to most newsmagazines, like the moribund Time and Newsweek, The Economist has a circulation of 1.2 million copies weekly around the world. Its correspondents have entrance to decision-makers of all levels in Washington and Europe.

This most prestigious British weekly, extremely influential in elite circles in the US as well, prides itself on being neither right nor left. It has, in fact, endorsed candidates in Britain and the United States from both sides of the political divide.

But on the Middle East, The Economist has a radical anti-Israel agenda. For years, Jewish groups and media critics have aimed their fire at Israel bashers on CNN, the BBC, in The New York Times and cultural media outlets such as the London Review of Books.

But The Economist is more subtle about it. Economist editorials and feature articles are published anonymously, giving the impression of being much more reputable and sophisticated.

A recent article titled “The Bedouin Under Israeli Rule” went beyond the usual slant, accusing the Jewish state of ethnic cleansing and promoting the imperialist-colonialist narrative. The CAMERA media watchdog denounced the fact that “The Economist presents the Israeli government’s resettlement of Bedouin into cities as part of a program driven purely by ethnic chauvinism”.

The magazine writes that “the nomads have been easy for Israel to divide, conquer, shift and, at least in the Israeli state’s early days, expel...”. It goes on to say that “plans are afoot to transfer some 2,000 to the edge of a rubbish dump to make way for more Jewish settlers east of Jerusalem”.

In 2004 The Economist hosted a debate in London on the motion “The Enemies of Anti-Semitism are the New McCarthyites”, meant to demonize the few journalists and professors who denounced the rampant anti-Semitism in the UK.

Last year The Economist asked in an editorial about Teheran’s nuclear program: “To what extent does the Holocaust obsession irrationally distort the Israeli perspective on Iran?”.

Last March, the week after the massacre of Fogel’s family in Itamar, The Economist published a cartoon comparing Israel’s construction of 400 apartments in the “settlement blocs” to Qaddafi and Assad, who massacred  their own people. In the same number, The Economist denounced “the new, supremacist form of Israeli ‘Jewishness’”.

While the magazine has no problem with “IRA terrorists” or “Kurdish terrorists”, it does not say “Hamas terrorists”. The difference is not accidental. There is a semantic and a legal distinction between branding a group terrorist and merely charging it with terrorist acts.

Says The Economist: “Palestine does not fit the September 11th template. For this is terrorism harnessed to a deserving cause: the independent statehood that America itself has taken pains to say it supports”.

The magazine described Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti as “an inspiring resistance leader” who has been “being tortured” in an Israeli jail.

About Jenin’s battle during the Second Intifada, The Economist gave credence to the accusations with its surprisingly melodramatic dispatches. “In the razed heart of Jenin refugee camp”, it reported, “Palestinians were shovelling out their decomposed dead.... The danger of epidemic is real”. “Like earthquake victims”, it added, “the Palestinians in Jenin, Nablus and elsewhere in the West Bank need massive humanitarian help”. But that help, it reported, “is hindered by the Israeli army’s sieges”.

Last year the magazine embraced the Palestinian propaganda reporting that “Israeli archeologists are scraping away the eastern parts of the city’s Arab surface in search of a Jewish past”.

About Judea and Samaria, the magazine opposes “'indigenous' Palestinians” to Israel’s “colonization”.

Last spring The Economist urged US president Barack Obama to “impose” a peace agreement on Israel.

Hizbullah, Iran and “sometimes Hamas”, are acknowledged to be implacable opponents of the Jewish state. “But”, The Economist explains, “it is the unending Israeli occupation that gives these rejectionists their oxygen”.

The magazine’s “books and arts” validates anti-Israel slant of “apartheid” by reviewing and promoting titles like “The New Intifada: Resisting Israel’s Apartheid”, “Palestinian Refugees: The Right of Return”, “Against the Wall” and “Palestine/Israel: Peace or Apartheid”.

In a review of Amity Shlaes’s book “The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression”, The Economist uncritically quoted Henry Ford about the Jews in America. The section in question in the book review read: “Ms. Shlaes tends to look at the depression in terms of the conflict between business (good) and politics (bad). At the time, though, Roosevelt’s view that the ‘lack of honor of men in high financial places’ was at the root of the trouble seemed like a statement of the obvious, rather than a political pose. Even Henry Ford had been uttering warnings that ‘the Jews of Wall Street,’ as he so nicely called them, had stored up trouble in the 1920s. The depression appeared to prove him right”.

Last August even the Washington Post castigated The Economist’s bias on the Jews. In a review of the biography of one of contemporary Islam’s most radical thinkers, The Economist downplayed Sayd Qutb’s anti-Semitism, as something not worh mentioning.

On October 7, 2000, when the Israeli restaurants and buses began to blow up, The Economist wrote that “Israel is a superior country with superior people: its talents are above the ordinary. But it has to abate its greed for other people’s land”.

In a George Orwell essay titled “Anti-Semitism in Britain” we read that “there has been a perceptible anti-Semitic strain in English literature from Chaucer onwards. ...”. Should we include The Economist in this dark tradition too? 

Giulio Meotti, an Italian journalist with Il Foglio, writes a weekly column for Arutz Sheva. He is the author of the book "A New Shoah", that researched the personal stories of Israel's terror victims, published by Encounter. His writing has appeared in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Frontpage and Commentary.