Controversy erupted when firebrand left-wing Irish broadcaster Vincent Browne referred to Israel as a “cancer” on the 23rd October, during his popular TV programme Tonight with Vincent Browne (TV3).
When discussing the final US presidential debate between Obama and Romney, Browne was critical of what he saw as a failure to discuss American support for Israel. In an outspoken fashion, he stated:
Israel is the cancer in foreign affairs. It polarises the Islamic community of the world against the rest of the world…. It’s a massive injustice. They [the Jews] stole the land from the Arabs.
Browne later defended his remarks which he justified by using an extremely dubious historical argument:
Actually the conflict is founded on the fact that Israel is located in what Muslims refer to as “Dar al-Islam” — hence its very existence (pre or post 1967 borders) is an offence. Furthermore, his assertion is a gross oversimplification as most Jewish habitation was placed on Miri or public land and waste land as defined in Article Six of the British Mandate, and legally purchased land. Brown went on to state that the word “cancer” was ill chosen:The reality is the Israeli State was founded by confiscation of land previously occupied by Arabs. That injustice is at the centre of the conflict.
Browne’s insistence that he does not wish to see Israel “eliminated” can be doubted with good reason. The problem with his explanation is that he appeals to the historic founding of Israel in his subsequent explanation, and seemingly in his initial criticism as well. Thus, his stance stands in stark contrast to common criticism of Israel for it being located on its June 1967 borders, a consequence of the Six-Day War, in which they took possession, during a defensive conflict, of the Sinai, West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. Therefore, it would seem Browne takes issue with Israel’s presence even in its pre-1967 form.I didn’t mean it [Israel] should be eliminated. It was an infelicitous use of the word.
Notwithstanding the point above, was use of the word “cancer” ill-chosen or in keeping with Browne’s previously expressed views? Arguably it is the latter for his prejudice against Israel is very well known.
For example, Browne can quite often be heard on his show expressing the belief that Israel is simply filled with European Jews colonising the land. That point is illustrative of Browne’s ignorance of Israel’s history because much of the Jewish populace within Israel today is descended from Jews that were persecuted and expelled from Arab lands. Moreover, the principles upon which the Jewish State was founded, the need for a haven for the Jewish People, is both a moral right in itself and a necessity following persecution for in excess of a millennia in both the Islamic and Christian worlds. The Jewish People qualify as a displaced indigenous group but Browne’s casual and contemptuous assertions also by inference amount to a denial of their historic roots, and their moral right to return to their homeland.
Browne’s issue with Israel and the West, and a corresponding support for Islamism, is a long standing one. In the aftermath of the 2010 Gaza Flotilla he described the terrorism emanating from Gaza as little more than stone throwing. To quote an article by David Quinn some years ago:
Thus, it would seem Browne’s use of the word “cancer” conforms closely with his views on the Middle East. His views are extreme to say the least, and the fact that he is happy to express them in a show that ought to be impartial on complex issues suggests he is ill suited for a popular slot on the Irish airwaves.In The Irish Times the other day we had Vincent Browne calling for the West to give into virtually all of the demands of al-Qa’ida, Hamas, Hizbollah, the Iranians, and I suppose the Taliban as well. He imagines that if America pulled the plug on the Saudi royal family… and if the West generally stops interfering in the affairs of Muslims countries, then all will be well… If all these things happen, Muslim rage would continue to burn because Browne, like the left in general, misdiagnoses the real cause of that rage.
Little wonder Enda Kenny, the highest ranking Irish politician at present, has consistently refused to accept Browne’s invitations for interview. Sadly however, his firebrand style of leftist posturing has become popular in a nation struggling at an individual and collective level with severe banking debt.
Many did not view his reply to the criticism favourably. Regarding the fashion in which he addressed the comments in a subsequent show:
He didn’t apologise… He also behaved like a typical bully and said he was being blackmailed.
It was announced this week that the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) upheld some complaints by viewers concerning Vincent Browne’s anti-Israeli comments. The BAI said that the item in the show carrying Browne’s remarks "failed to meet the requirement for fair, objective and impartial treatment of news and current affairs". They disagreed that the remarks constituted anti-Semitism but added that the comments about Israel were made without apparent relevance to the discussion at hand.
TV3 will be forced to issue an apology on Television for Browne’s remarks, leading Brendan O'Connor to quip during his monologue on the popular Saturday Night Live (RTE) TV show: "TV3 is to apologise to Israel for Vincent Browne. That’s all very well but when are they going to apologise to the rest of us?"