Lancaster Hate

One of the websites I monitor on a regular basis so that others don’t have to is that of Irene Lancaster, an average UK academic (now based in Haifa) who managed to launch a successful media career propounding the view that critics of Israel are motivated by anti-Semitism and a wish to collude in a Muslim takeover of the UK. Despite the bizarre extremity of her rhetoric (she once accused the Bishop of Chester and his staff of “Jew-hating for kicks” and, inevitably, of being “like Hitler”), Lancaster is described by the intellectual Roman Catholic magazine The Tablet as “one of the United Kingdom’s leading Jewish academics”, and she was recently ranked by the London Times as number 28 in the “Most Influential Religious Blogs” category. Given Lancaster’s nasty and rambling manner of discourse as revealed on her blog and the comments she scatters around various websites (her formal academic work, on medieval Jewish texts, looks competent enough, although it is hardly broad or extensive enough to make her worthy of the Tablet plaudit), one can only assume that some kind of philo-Semitic stereotyping is at work in which Jews are inherently associated with intellectual and analytical ability, and that therefore to recognise her prowess must reflect well on one’s own wisdom.

I blogged on Lancaster back in August, but I’ve tried to avoid raising the subject again, despite coming across jaw-droppingly stupid utterances on an almost daily basis, and despite having had a couple of encounters with her in the comments section of Ruth Gledhill’s blog. However, sometimes I have to indulge myself, and a couple of days ago I noted her support for “Lionheart”, an extreme Muslim-hater who endorses the BNP (although I’m sure Lancaster wasn’t aware of the BNP link).

I also like to keep a note of the various people she attacks so bitterly. The latest targets of her wrath are Paul Vallely, who contributes to the Church Times, and his wife:

One of the [Church Times]‘s most prominent contributors is also Associate Editor of the Independent, as well as being the husband of the BBC’s head of radio religious broadcasting. I had glimpsed this personage once on a visit to the BBC studios in Manchester, and would not like to have crossed her on a dark night – no, not at all!!

Lancaster, from my own experience, has three rhetorical strategies for dealing with opponents: there are accusations of anti-Semitism, and arguments from authority – her links to public figures like George Carey and Andrew White, her academic credentials, and her position as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (which isn’t particularly difficult for an academic with the right connections to get, by the way). She might also suggest that as middle-aged Jewish woman she is being bullied, and I suspect that this is why she feels the need to make absurd insinuations that her opponents might be prone to physical violence.

Paul Vallely’s wife is the third person she’s tried this with. Previously she has said she might take up an invitation to meet Stephen Sizer, a pro-Palestinian vicar, but would be “sure to take a body-guard”. On another occasion it was Guardian columnist Giles Fraser, of whom she stated “he turned up at my house on one occasion without prior consultation… I can’t help feeling that one of these days he may need a lawyer himself.” Strangely, she had told the story before, but rather differently: she originally claimed that Fraser had been brought to her house by a mutual acquaintance to “apologise” to her for something (This is also rather unlikely to be the full story. See my previous blog entry for further details).

Meanwhile, Lancaster has also recently complained about a Muslim academic getting a peerage:

It was just one of those inane BBC programmes in which three people sit around talking, dismissing Muslim terror and extremism as nothing to do with religion per se, but only with culture. Whitewashing (excuse my French) and appeasement, naturally…And, no wonder York’s Muslim professor of politics is a member of the House of Lords.

Although Lancaster does not deign to tell us, this is Haleh Afshar. Given that Lancaster’s moment of fame as a media pundit seems to be passing, might this – along with catty comments about the BBC’s head of radio religious broadcasting – be a bad case of sour grapes?