Anonymous Anti-Israel Grumbles from The Phoenix

Readers will wonder if the magazine takes such a dismissive approach to homophobic comments as they do to antisemitic comments.

The Phoenix is a fortnightly magazine that was founded in 1983 and is published by Penfield Enterprises Limited. From the start, it had clear ambitions to emulate the British periodical, “Private Eye” and in fairness, in the first few years, the magazine was genuinely funny. Its satirical cartoons often provoked outrage from the great and powerful in Irish society.

More recently, it does seem to have lost its edge and – in tandem with that – circulation has declined sharply from over 18,000 in 2007 to just over 11,000 in 2018. Long gone are the days when its front covers were laugh-out-loud stuff. Readers might recall the crude image that graced the front cover of the magazine in August 2014 during Operation Protective Edge – Israel’s intervention in Gaza in response to hundreds of missile attacks by Hamas. With crude references to gassing and pogroms, it was utterly unfunny and clearly designed to offend Jewish people. The less said about it the better.

Shrill Anti-Israel Line

Considering the above, it won’t come as a surprise to anyone that the magazine has a shrill anti-Israel line. An anonymous writer took grave exception in a recent issue to the invitation to Yoseph Haddad to address Oireachtas members in late February. The article threw in the “former member of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF)” line beloved of Israel-haters when they want to malign the character of an Israeli person. Firstly, there’s nothing wrong with serving in an army. Secondly, almost all Israeli citizens serve in the IDF. That’s one of the reasons why the tiny country has not been overrun by far larger neighbours. There was also some muttering about Fine Gael (FG) TD, Jennifer Carroll MacNeill being the head of the Oireachtas Friends of Israel group and also being FG spokesperson on equality – implying but not saying outright that there was some conflict.

In the most recent issue, the magazine published a full article on Jennifer Carroll MacNeill. The article opens with snide remarks about her coming from a wealthy family. In the opinion of the anonymous writer, this makes people “nervous”. Really? Mary Lou McDonald is from a similar background. Perhaps Mr/Ms. Anonymous might clarify whether Mary Lou also makes people nervous as a result of her background.

The article refers (again!) to the speech by Yoseph Haddad to Oireachtas members and makes wild claims that Ceann Comhairle “Seán Ó Fearghail (sic, missing fada)” was “visibly uncomfortable” as “Haddad’s utterances became increasingly testy and aggressive”. This is unverifiable nonsense. There was an exchange between Haddad and one Sinn Féin TD during which the Sinn Féiner was put in his place by a few facts. Compared to the daily shenanigans in the Dáil, it was tame stuff.

Gaslighting Antisemitism

There have also been anonymous articles on David Collier’s report into antisemitism in Ireland. The tone has been dismissive, and takes the line that those posting or liking anti-Jewish comments online are “politically illiterate” or “they do not read all the texts carefully”. The magazine accepts at face value this defence from Sinn Féin TD, Chris Andrews who liked a post about “murdering Zionist bastards” which also stated that “the guy with the funny moustache may not have been too far wrong”. Would The Phoenix take such a gaslighting view with any other form of bigotry and racism?

In another anonymous article in late January, the magazine had go again at David Collier, commenting that he appeared on a UK Christian television channel discussing his report. The only jab they could get in this time was that the channel had been censured in the past for broadcasting homophobic views. Wrong though that is, what does it have to do with David Collier? Readers will wonder if the magazine takes such a dismissive approach to homophobic comments as they do to antisemitic comments.

Amateurish Attempt as Sophistry

The magazine also takes issue with Ireland’s involvement in the European Union’s Roxanne Project. This project is an anti-crime initiative involving dozens of countries which seeks to identify and track criminals and their networks using speech, text and video technology. And what is The Phoenix’s problem with this? Israel is involved.

The thrust of the article is that Ireland’s participation in this project constitutes a “Garda Mossad Link” and the author (who doesn’t identify themselves) reaches this conclusion by claiming that the Israel ministry involved in this initiative (the Ministry of International Security (MIS) which oversees the Israeli police) is “closely allied to Mossad”.

Mossad is a completely separate agency that comes under the auspices of the Office of the Prime Minister and has nothing to do with the MIS. It’s only connection to the MIS is that they’re both agencies of the Israeli government. The MIS is no more allied to Mossad than the Israeli ministry of tourism or the ministry of agriculture.

A little word play at the expense of The Phoenix
A little word play at the expense of The Phoenix

By virtue of the United Kingdom’s involvement in the Roxanne Project, the anonymous writer would presumably also claim that there is now a Garda-MI6 link. If the Gardai are involved in an international anti-crime initiative with the FBI, then this must mean a Garda-CIA link. This amateurish attempt at sophistry does not belong in any serious publication.

The Phoneyix’s No Name Club

As mentioned before, the person who wrote the article did not feel able to put their name to it. Indeed, that’s a curious feature of The Phoneyix. All articles are anonymous. Those of us who look after the Ireland Israel Alliance blog are happy to put our names to the articles we write. We’re happy to stand over our views.

Not so in The Phoneyix. Of course, the people who write for The Phoneyix are perfectly entitled to conceal their identities and not stand over their grumbling. If the above articles are typical of the quality of journalism at the magazine, we can well understand why.

By Ciarán Ó Raghallaigh

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