Melanie Phillips is a politically conservative Jewish journalist, broadcaster and author who has written extensively about the threat that militant Islamism poses to the nations of the West.
She is on a lecture tour sponsored in Atlanta by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and the Atlanta Israel Coalition. Her two programs here, entitled “The West: A Civilization in Crisis,” will be Nov. 18 and 19.
Phillips is the author of “Londonistan,” a best-selling book published in 2006 that describes what she saw as the inability of British leaders to challenge the growing influence of Islamism in that country. She writes regularly for The Jewish Chronicle of London, The Times of London, The Jerusalem Post and a number of other leading publications.
We asked her about the political conversion she has undergone during her long career.
AJT: How have your political beliefs changed over the years? Didn’t you spend quite a few years writing for The Guardian in Britain, which is a very liberal newspaper?
Phillips: I often have said, to the horror of my former colleagues of The Guardian, that they made me what I am today, which they really don’t like at all. I wrote a book, in fact, a memoir called “Guardian Angel My Journey from Leftism to Sanity,” which was published in the United States in 2016. And in that memoir, I chart what happened to me, because it is a fairly remarkable story. I worked for The Guardian newspapers for the best part of 20 years. The first example of how my beliefs began to change was in 1982 when I was a young editorial writer on The Guardian and Israel was embroiled in one of its wars in Lebanon.
“I was very, very troubled by the fact that Israel was being represented in Britain as in an aggressive war, and that the role of the Palestine Liberation Organization in terrorism against Israel was virtually not discussed at all, and Israel was presented as the aggressor.”
And on each and every one of the issues I wrote about from then on, I found myself at war with the left. And so it was a long period of education, as it were. And eventually I broke with them and they have never forgiven me.
AJT: What is your impression of anti-Semitism in America?
Phillips: Unfortunately, the situation has only gotten worse over time rather than better. Until the last two or three years, Americans felt that what was going on in Europe didn’t affect America. And now there’s a very different atmosphere because now American Jews are extremely concerned about anti-Semitism in America.
AJT: What are your thoughts about the rise of what has been called the alt-right, the neo-Nazis and other extremists?
Phillips: I don’t think there are very many of them. I think the number has been exaggerated. I think they’ve got more momentum because of the hysteria in which they are regarded. … They are a menace. They are a danger that is increasing. The violence is increasing. All that is true. They hate Jews. That’s all absolutely correct.
Are their numbers increasing? It’s very hard to tell. I would think that they probably are, … and while we should be concerned about the white supremacist neo-Nazis, I think it’s very important not to exaggerate their importance.