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Oracle Oborne and the Israeli Electorate

This is a guest post by St Jude

HP readers will be familiar with the spoof apologies that Private Eye prints on behalf of all media when the herd-mentality predictions of the Fourth Estate turn out to be wide of the mark and they have to perform a mass volte-face. The coverage leading up to yesterday’s Israeli election would sit well as a target for such satire.

For weeks now, columnists and bloggers have been portraying the Israeli General Election as about to usher in a new dark age of conflict and race hate. Headlines and titles such as “Israelis Want Neo-Nazi Zio-Clones in Cabinet” (not really) and “Voters Set To Give Mandate for Menachim Begin Theme Park on Site of Dome of The Rock” (not really, again, bu I’m not far off) may have added to the impression that a sharp and irreversable turn to the extreme right was the only possible outcome of the poll. These experts cast runes fashioned from the rhetoric of Binyamin Netanyahu, the personal appeal of Naftali Bennett*, and the vox pops of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem – and were able to foretell the end of the two-state solution and an existential crisis for Israel itself.

Of course, the anger and sadness at the predicted result barely manged to conceal their pleasure at supposedly being able to confirm their prejudices about Israeli society. Leading this joyful pessimism was, of course, Peter Oborne, the Daily Telegraph’s Chief Political Commentator, whose obsession with Israel peaked in 2009 when he produced and presented a documentary on a government-owned medium, Channel 4, critical of the “pro-Israel lobby” for being too influential in government and media. Logic isn’t his strongest suit.

Two days ago, he wrote a piece entitled “Israel’s moderate voices won’t be heard at this general election“, the basis for which was the inexorable rise of Jewish Home. Oracle Oborne had been to Israel and concluded that “ethnic cleansing” was top of Israelis’ priorities, after attending a self-selecting meeting of 500 people (that’s nearly 0.007% of the population, folks!); while also seeing that a binational solution without “a hint of violence” was all that Palestinians were concerned with, after one quick chat with a West Bank politician.

“I flew out of Israel fearful for its future,” signed-off Oborne.

Even the Guardian (the Guardian, FFS!) is today reporting the result of the election held yesterday as one in which “centrists gain(ed) ground“. I mean, just how disobedient are these Israelis? First of all they were set to give an overwhelming mandate for unpalatable politicians, in defiance of the bien pensants of the West who condemned this. Then they actually go and vote in a far more complicated and nuanced way, in defiance of those same Western commentators’ predictions.

It’s almost as if Oborne, and others, don’t really know what they’re talking about when it comes to Israel. But I won’t expect any “The Israeli Electorate: An Apology” articles any time soon.

(*I do have to wonder when Mystic Pete describes Bennett as “as a modern metrosexual male who speaks with easy, self-deprecating good humour” whether he’s describing the candidate’s appeal to Israel’s voters, or to himself).