Is this the most anti-Israel publication in the world?

November 15, 2010

* British government and National lottery money continues to fund what is arguably the most anti-Israel publication of all (at least in the Western world), “The London Review of Books”.

* It is doubtful whether any other mainstream publication in the Western world spreads hate against any group of people to the extent that the London Review of Books (LRB) does about Israelis. The LRB also has an influential readership in America.

* Among those who say they admire LRB writings: the former head of the Ku Klux Klan.



1. Paid for by British taxpayers
2. “Championing great art”?
3. A “neo-Nazi ideology wrapped in Judaism”
4. Killing Jews as a form of anti-globalization protest
5. “Gas chambers are not the only way to destroy a nation
6. Mearsheimer, Walt, and “The Israel Lobby” lies
7. Self-loathing Jews
8. The MPs on this list


[Note below by Tom Gross]

It is difficult to know which publication in the world comes first for sheer nastiness in its demonization of Israel, but (as I’ve pointed out before) that dishonor may well fall to The London Review of Books (the LRB).

It is not only the propaganda and hateful contents of a supposedly respectable publication like the LRB that make it so shocking, but the fact that the LRB (like the BBC) receives British taxpayers’ money to carry out its self-appointed mission.

Each year since 1981, the LRB has received a grant from the UK government-funded Arts Council, specifically for the purpose of paying contributing writers. Over the last ten years alone, 92 articles relating to Israel have been published by such contributing writers, 91 of which can be described as being anti-Israel, often viciously so. No other subject can have been so extensively covered by this fortnightly publication much favored among academics and school teachers.

Many of these Israel-bashing articles run to several thousand words – even though readers might expect the LRB to be a publication that reviews books (and books on a wide variety of subjects) or discusses matters relating to literature or the arts.



The UK’s Arts Council is funded solely by public money from the British Government and the National Lottery. The Arts Council states that it works to “get great art to everyone by championing, developing and investing in artistic experiences that enrich people’s lives.”

The Arts Council can hardly be said to be sticking to these laudable aims, as one can see from the points in the segment below.

The LRB is one of the most-widely circulated European literary magazines. Its own publicity material boasts that its readership is:

“Highly Educated: * 84% hold a first degree, 48% hold a higher degree.

“Influential: * 61% hold senior positions in their work place.

“Opinion Forming: * 40% have had work published in the last two years.
* 25% have been interviewed on radio or TV.

“Affluent: * 40% of all readers earn more than £40,000 a year.”

I should add that the LRB, although published in the U.K., also has a strong influence on some American intellectuals and government officials.

One reader also tells me that the LRB published what amounted to an apology for the slaughter in Darfur about three years ago.



Today, the watchdog organization Just Journalism (the founder, board, and director of which subscribe to this email list) have produced a lengthy study of the LRB’s record over the past decade in regard to Israel, written by Chris Dyszynski. You can read it in full here.

It is a long report so I have drawn out various points in it for readers below, and also added various observations of my own.

Also, in addition to the articles that the report has examined, there are a number of other anti-Israel items that the London Review of Books has published and which I wrote about at the time, such as the LRB poem, a “Requiem for Mohammad al-Dura.”

Of course, Israel (like other countries) sometimes behaves badly and should not be spared criticism, but outright demonization of an entire country and people, which is what the LRB is engaged in, is not the same thing.


Among the things the LRB have had to say:

* “The state of Israel wishes to inculcate in its soldiers a “neo-Nazi ideology wrapped in Judaism.” (LRB article, 22 July 2004)

* “Should Arabs in Israel be forcibly sterilized to prevent their children outnumbering the children of Israel’s Jews? … Was this inherent in the Zionist idea?” (LRB article by Charles Glass, 24 June 2004)


* “Gas chambers are not the only way to destroy a nation [like the Palestinians]. It is enough to destroy its social tissue, to starve dozens of villages, to develop high rates of infant mortality.” (LRB article by vehemently anti-Zionist Israeli Yitzhak Laor, 9 May 2002)

* Yasser Arafat is “admirable” for not having “betrayed his people and accepted the offer [of an independent Palestinian state] made at Camp David.” (LRB article by Raja Shehadeh)

* LRB readers were told that the IDF were “arrest[ing] hundreds of people... [and] concentrating them in camps behind barbed wire”.

* “This unbelievable destruction can only indicate that this war is not merely about security, but is directed at annihilating everything Palestinian,” said another LRB article.

* Israeli claims during the second intifada that the need to protect themselves from terrorism is a “feint” and its policies are designed to “destroy the indigenous population”. (LRB article by John Berger)

* Other LRB articles have headlines like “War Crimes,” “The One-State Solution,” “Zionist Terrorism,” and “Quisling and Occupier”.



* One LRB article even suggested that the more than 4,000 rockets Hizbullah fired from Lebanon at Israeli civilians in the summer of 2006 were actually a form of anti-globalization protest. And rather than trying to kill people (as dozens of them did), one LRB contributor argued that Hizbullah was in fact trying to raise awareness of the economic disadvantages of northern Israelis.

* And in another LRB article, Eric Hobsbawm says Israel’s actions constitute “barbarism”.

* Jacqueline Rose writes in the LRB of Israel’s “unrestrained and indiscriminate violence”.

* Michael Wood argued in the LRB that Israel “had entered a moral territory from which there may be no return.”

* Yitzhak Laor claimed in the LRB hat Israel’s actions were a milestone in human history: “The extent of the cruelty, the lack of shame and the refusal of self-restraint are striking, both in anthropological terms and historically.”



The London Review of Books is probably best-known in America as the magazine which first published the rantings of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, co-authors of the notorious diatribe “The Israel Lobby,” after no major American magazine would accept their hate-filled manuscript. Their essay was criticized around the world for having as its central thesis the anti-Semitic notion of disproportionate Jewish power secretly manipulating the media and politics. For example, Mearsheimer and Walt had suggested the United States has gone to war in Iraq to gratify Ariel Sharon. (In fact in 2002 and 2003, Sharon strongly warned President Bush against invading and occupying Iraq).

Even arch Israel critic Noam Chomsky criticized Mearsheimer and Walt’s LRB essay, saying their case was “not very convincing” and had made “highly selective use of evidence”.

In marked contrast, the extreme right and Neo-Nazis welcomed their LRB essay. Former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke spoke glowingly of “The Israel Lobby” saying: “It is quite satisfying to see … every major point I have been making … validated.”



Since 1992, when Mary-Kay Wilmers became its editor, The London Review of Books has become one of the biggest Israel-bashing organs in the world, at times even rivaling the Iranian state media.

As well as Arts Council funds, editor and owner Wilmers has used her own wealth, inherited from her fur-dealing Russian-Jewish family, to keep the LRB going. One of her ancestors worked for the KGB and organized the murder of Trotsky, although it did not save him from Stalin’s purges in the end. She wrote a book about it last year.

Wilmers has often used the fact that she is of Jewish origin as some kind of excuse to demonize Israel. For example, she said “I’m unambiguously hostile to Israel because it’s a mendacious state. They do things that are just so immoral and counterproductive and, as a Jew, especially as a Jew, you can’t justify that.” (The Times of London, 18 Oct 2009.)

In an interview last year with The Guardian, Wilmers said that she had been pro-Israel in the past but then “Edward Said converted me’’ – referring to the notorious Palestinian-American Columbia University professor who was a lifelong proponent of dismantling the state of Israel.

Perhaps not coincidentally, since Said’s death in 2003, the most widely-used writer of Palestinian or Arab origin at the LRB has been Said’s successor at Columbia University, Rashid Khalidi.

But who needs anti-Semites, when you can find a few Jews to provide cover?

More than half of all the LRB articles on Israel in the past decade have been written by people who are Jewish, and over a third by Israelis citizens.

As Just Journalism points out, three post- or anti-Zionist Israelis – Uri Avnery, Ilan Pappe and Yitzhak Laor – have between them written 24 articles for LRB over the last 10 years. Avnery regards the idea of a Jewish homeland as “an anachronism”. Laor believes that even left-wing Zionism is so horrible that it is akin to “Le Pen or Heider” [sic – his name should be spelled Haider]. And Pappe has stated that “Zionism is far more dangerous to the safety of the Middle East than Islam.”

In Israel these views are extremely marginal. Within the LRB they are given pride of place.

Yet while repeatedly painting Israel, a diplomatic and commercial ally of Britain, as a racist uniquely vile country, the LRB has shown much sympathy for terrorist groups like Hamas and Hizbullah.

One reader suggested to me that the LRB should be renamed the “The Finkler Times” (in reference to Howard Jacobson’s award-winning new novel about self-hating Jews).

Daniel Johnson (the editor of Standpoint magazine and a subscriber to this email list) last year wrote an interesting piece on Mary Kay Wilmers and the LRB’s “anti-Semitic propaganda”, which you can read here.

Johnson points out that “No other comparable literary magazine has enjoyed such long-term, inflation-proof, no-strings subsidy from the taxpayer.”



Hundreds of thousands of pounds of British taxpayers’ money have been used to fund lies and invective in the LRB liable to stir up anti-Semitism against British and foreign Jews.

MPs from all the main British political parties subscribe to this email list, as do five cabinet ministers, including Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance minister) George Osborne and Education Secretary Michael Gove. They might want to ask the heads of the Art Council what they are doing using taxpayers’ money to demonize an ally of Great Britain and quite possibly stir up anti-Semitism at home.

--- Tom Gross

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.