Sunday, November 4, 2012
Vincent Browne's "cancer" remark
Most evenings I watch the Vincent Browne show on Ireland's TV3 Channel. I was not watching two weeks ago when during a discussion on the third Presidential debate Browne stated that "Israel was a Cancer in Foreign Affairs". Browne has claimed that he was not referring to Israel itself when he used the word cancer and that the true meaning of his statement was that Israel has a cancerous affect on US foreign policy because both political parties "bow" to Israel. For a short time I was willing to lay off Browne and take him at his word that the grumpy, but likable uncle figure had his words to some extent taken out of context. But on reflection it is clear to me that this is nonsense. I know what he meant. He knows what he meant and the viewers know what he meant.
The use of the word "cancer" was reckless, irresponsible and bigoted. A cancer is something that kills everything it infects. It has to be destroyed if everything around it is to survive. For Vincent Browne to give in to the narrative that dominates much of the Arab world is unforgivable. The narrative I speak of is the one which we see from Hezbollah, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and others. This narrative seems fit to blame literally every problem that exists in the Muslim world on Israel and Jews. It is a similar narrative to that used by the Nazis in the Third Reich. It is truly mind boggling that a prominent Irish TV personality would give credibility to this narrative. And that is what he has done. This story has already made the Israeli and Palestinian media and by making this statement Browne has reinforced the perception in Jerusalem that Ireland is vehemently anti Israel while simultaneously making it harder for Palestinian elements to moderate toward Israeli recognition. This is what I personally find unforgivable. Ireland is a country that has overcome a conflict that was once thought to be as equally intractable as that in the Middle East. We have overcome that conflict and instigated what is regarded by many as the worlds most successful peace process. One would hope that the Irish nation has learned from this and that our contribution to other world conflicts would only be positive. Not Vincent Browne however. In his mind our contribution should be no more sophisticated than "Israel is a cancer". It amazes me that he sees this as reasonable. "Israel is a cancer", not religious extremism, not Islamic fundamentalism or even authoritarian rule, to Vincent Browne the cancer is the democratic state of Israel.
Browne's response to date has been pathetic. He has fallen back on the old false grievance that "criticism of Israel is not anti Semitic", as if all he had done was merely criticise Israeli policy. He of course did much more than this by referring to the whole nation as a cancer. Can we imagine the reaction if someone had said the exact same words about Palestinians. Or if someone referred to blacks, Ireland, or members of the travelling community as a cancer, the latter being a cause which Vincent Browne himself has been vocal about. Vincent Browne has let himself down with these comments. As a political pundit who speaks to the Irish people for an hour every weeknight he is in fact quite a powerful man who has the ability to shape public opinion on many issues. On the issue of Israel he has not only fallen on the wrong side of it but has put himself in the same category as the bigots and anti Semites that relentlessly bash Israel out of all context and proportion and by doing so he has associated Ireland with these views. He has done the country a great disservice in this matter. My estimation of him has decreased significantly in the wake of this controversy. Below are the comments.